I am trying to set my mind on the PMI rails, but absolutely can't get the order in which a project manager asked to prepare a project charter prior to steps in the planning process group like collecting requirements, defining a scope and estimating costs.

I understand that in a project charter it is only necessary to give a high-level outline of a project, not going too deep into details. But reality and past experience say that once I will write somewhere a budget $10000 and delivery time 1 month, they will stay as that, even though, a calculator feature, defined in the project charter, in a scope statement will appear as a calculator with artificial intelligence that explains why 2+2 is 4, - interactively, with illustrations.

Where am I going wrong? Should I really start defining a project from the project charter rather than planning stage?


4 Answers 4


Before you start planning, someone has an idea demanding a project to realise it.

To have a general understanding about this idea and the major constraints you (or someone else) create the project charter. From my point of view: Doing this, the planning process is started also.

Keep in mind that PMI references huge companies and huge projects. Maybe the planning person can not talk to the idea generator all the time. So it might be a good idea to write down the major aspects to be able to look them up from time to time during the planning process.

  • I think a problem here is the legal weight of the project charter. In case the project charter is only to outline general ideas of the project and not to create legal boundaries to the contractor, then this makes sense. But, usually, in outsourcing customers stick to the very first word you give, disregard of further scope changes and clarifications. Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 12:28
  • That's right. Nur you can work ob the customer relationship, e.g. by providing probabilities rather than hard numbers or by defining a milestones to finalise the requirements.
    – Tob
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 13:49

Project Charter is about what do you want to do and why? The main things in Project Charter are business case (why) and objectives (what). Other details are your initial idea about how to achieve objectives.

Until you know what you want to do and why, you cannot have your scope, planning etc. All projects start with an estimated time and budget even if you are not sure if you can achieve project objectives in that time and budget. Until you commit a date and cost to your customer, you customer may not give you the project to execute. This is how life is. Therefore risk management and stakeholder management are required.


A project charter has a high level synopsis of the the project. It usually includes a milestone schedule, high level requirements and overall budget. But, it is not created to describe the project. Rather it is created to authorize the start of the project.

To answer your specific Q, consider that you have to make arrangement for a wedding. You will not take on this project if you do not know the wedding date (milestone schedule), high level requirements and an overall budget. But requirements & budget can change as you plan the wedding.


Great question.

The project charter is high level and it should be addressed like that. The challenge is when you give definitive estimate at this stage then your client may tend to hold you to that.

A better approach would be to give a rough order estimate which is something like; based on the initial project description, it will take 6 months - 50% +100%. This means that after enough planning has been done, it may take just about 2.5 months (-50%) to complete this project or it can go up to 10 months (+100%).

As we are dealing with high level details, your estimates (time, cost, resources etc) would be high level also. More information will be gained during planning and execution then your estimates can be reviewed.

Michael Effanga

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