The difference between project charter and project scope statement

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Ever wondered what the difference is between a Project Scope Statement and a Project Charter? Do you really need both?  Read on to find out.

The project charter and project scope statement are created in the early phases of a project. They are used throughout the project to make sure we are going in the right direction.

The importance of a project charter and project scope statement can't be underestimated.

Studies have shown that 39% of projects fail due to lack of planning. The charter and scope statement are two essential documents that can help you avoid being part of that statistic.

If you've researched both you are probably scratching your head and wondering what the difference is.

Do I really need both?

Read on to find out what each document is all about and how you can put them to good use!

The Project Charter

The project charter is where we document why a project is being undertaken. What will it deliver? What are the benefits it will bring? The intended audience is everyone involved with the project.

It's an essential project document as this is where you agree with stakeholders and clients what you will be delivering.  37% of projects fail due to an inability to meet the requirements. This is often caused by a lack of project charter.  In many cases, a project charter will require sign off before a project can even be started.

So what do we include in a project charter?

You should include a description and reason for the project.  Something brief that gets across what the project is and why we need to it. If someone joins the project they should be able to get a good understanding of the project by reading the charter.

Confusingly we include the project scope as part of the charter.  Essentially, the charter contains an overview of the project scope and the project scope statement breaks it down into more detail.

The scope should be clear and concise.  There should be no ambiguity around what the outcome of the project will be.  To make it clear there is something you won't deliver, write it in the charter.

If the project was for a new marketing website the scope might state we will deliver the homepage, blog, ad landing pages and product features page. You might also state that the e-commerce part of the site is out of scope.

Don't fall into the trap of unmet expectations or delivering the wrong thing.  Make sure the charter states clearly why the project is being undertaken and what it will deliver.

Other things to include in the charter are:

  • Project staff and stakeholders
  • High-level requirements
  • Basic project milestones
  • High-level risks
  • Budget
  • Success criteria

As you can see, the project charter is an important document. Make sure everyone reads, understands and agrees on it.

Next, we'll go through how to expand the project scope into a Project Scope statement.

The Project Scope Statement

A project scope statement takes the scope from the charter and expands on it. It's essential that this is done collaboratively with the project team. As a result, you are much more likely to get buy-in from your whole team.  This is essential if you want your project to be a success.

While the audience for this is mainly the team it's also useful when reporting to stakeholders.

In the scope statement we can define the following (among others):

  • What the project deliverables are. If we are delivering a software project we might also need to deliver a help manual and training material.
  • What constraints are in place. Does the team lack a certain skill? Is a key project member not available 100% of the time?
  • What assumptions are we making about how well things will go. Are we assuming we have access to a certain piece of equipment that we need?
  • What are the risks to the project? Is there a project member with a highly specialised skill? What happens if they leave? Do we rely on another team delivering their project first?
  • What is out of scope. Is there anything we need to make clear that we won't deliver? Is there any "non-goals" that need to be stated?

The important thing to note about this document is that it is a living document. Therefore, it should be updated and reviewed as new information comes to light. As a result, its only finished when the project is!

Do you really need both?

As you can see there is some overlap in content and audience for these documents.  If you feel that its overkill for your project to maintain both, go ahead and merge them into one. 

There are no hard and fast rules about this and it mostly depends on the type of projects you do and who they are for.  If your projects are mainly internal to your company you might not need the separation.

The main thing is you cover the details that are important to your project and team.

Make these work for your project!

If you're starting a new project or you've already started, make it a priority to get these documents written and agreed on.  Don't let your project become one of the many that fail due to lack of planning.

The good news is Barvas can help!  Barvas is a collaborative online project planning and management solution.  Using the unique mapping interface you can brainstorm with your team to ensure don't miss important details.

Use Barvas to create your project charter and scope statement before switching to the timeline view and task board for task scheduling and delivery.

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