According to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. The first industry standard step in accomplishing the goals and objectives of the project, is to create a project charter.
A project charter is a control document that provides a problem statement, along with an overview of the scope, goals, participants and requirements of a project.
The project charter should be used to guide the general direction of a project, and once approved serves as a contract between all participants.
The project charter provides authorization for the start of a new project. Additionally, the project charter grants the project manager authority to complete the project and identifies the roles and responsibilities of all other involved parties.
The project manager can create the project charter with the assistance of the project team members. However, the charter must be issued by a project sponsor with sufficient authority to support and sign-off on the project.
Upon approval, project charters should remain relatively unchanged. Minor modifications can occur at a later date, but only with the approval of all involved parties. The project manager is then responsible for ensuring all project participants receive a copy of the new charter, with a documented date of the modification.
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