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Program Charter

Improve roadmap planning process with David Bowman’s information management guidelines for program charter

This site is designed for Information Technology professionals and management consultants who need to improve roadmap planning process and want guidelines for program planning.

It provides a checklist of information management guidelines for program charter and a template to help jump-start a program.

What is a Charter?
A charter authorizes the existence of a program, and provides a Program Manager with authority to apply organizational resources to program activities.

It includes most elements of a preliminary program scope statement, which describes what is and what is not included in the program and supports decision-making process and is also often used as a communication tool.

Who is responsible for the Program charter?

The program charter should be developed by the program sponsor or a manager external to the program team, however a program manager often plays a major role in the development of the charter.

The program manager works closely with the program sponsor, who provides background information for the program e.g. purpose of the program and linkages to business needs, strategic priorities, objectives, and outcomes. The program manager also interviews stakeholders to gain more information in order to develop the charter.

Program Charter Guidelines

Charter Introduction

Change Control
  • Should document any changes and serves to control the development and distribution of revisions to the Program charter;
  • Should be used together with a change management process and a document management system; and
  • Should keep an accurate history of the original document that was first approved.
Executive summary
  • Should provide a brief summary of the program in business terms, demonstrating alignment with strategic objectives and vision of the organization;
  • Should also provide clear links between the program and the desired business outcomes stated in the business case;
  • Should provide some background information on the Program that includes the reasons for creating the Program e.g. business needs or legal requirements, and list the key stakeholders who will benefit from the program results; and
  • Should describe elements that require stakeholder approval e.g. Program goals, program objectives, major milestones, key deliverables, primary risks, and estimated total costs.

Should contain signatures of the program sponsor, program manager, and other key program stakeholders, confirming that they agree to their roles, the description of the program, and the program deliverables and outcomes presented in the program charter.
Program Overview

Program Summary

Should summarize the entire program charter and highlight the significant points of interest e.g. program goals and objectives, major milestones, key deliverables, key risks, and estimated total cost.
Program goals, objectives, and business outcomes
  • Should describe program goals and link each goal with related, measurable Program objectives;
  • Should include measurement criteria for each objective because they will be used to confirm that an objective has been achieved; and
  • Should describe business outcomes to be derived from the Program goals and objectives as outlined in the business case.
Program scope

Scope definition
  • Should provide a high-level description of the features and functions that characterize the product, service, or result that the program is meant to deliver; and
  • Should reference the business case if appropriate
  • Should describe the major activities required to successfully complete the program and describe each activity in a way that specifies what is and what is not included in the activity; and
  • Should identify out of scope activities as listing these activities will greatly reduce ambiguity.
  • Should identify the significant milestones or events in the program such as phases, stages, decision gates, or the approval of a deliverable; and
  • should include a high-level Program schedule.
  • Should list the key deliverables that the program is required to produce in order to achieve the stated objectives;
  • Should include internal program deliverables that are required in the program management process for review and approval e.g. Program plan, transition plan, communication plan, and lessons learned; and
  • Should be used to develop the top levels of work breakdown structure, which subdivides the major Program deliverables and Program work into smaller, more manageable components.
Program cost estimate and sources of funding

Program cost estimate
  • Should summarize cost estimates based on program resources needed to produce the deliverables and meet the agreed-upon objectives;
  • Should use cost estimates from the business case as the basis for this summary;
  • Should identify costs by program phase and show multi-year Programs by fiscal year; and  
  • Should identify ongoing costs that are permanently required for operations as a result of the program e.g. additional support, licenses, and hardware maintenance.
Sources of funding
  • Should describe the sources of funding that will be used to support the Program; and
  • Should provide clear understanding of where funds come from and the level of resources committed to this program.
  • Should identify if any predecessor or successor relationship exists with another program; and
  • Should list all dependencies in the "Risks" section to ensure monitoring and allow response to a risk as required
Program risks, assumptions, and constraints

  • Should describe the risks identified at the start of the program; and
  • Should includes a quick assessment of the significance of each risk e.g. probability and effect, and how to address them.
  • Should specify all factors that are, for planning purposes, considered to be true, real, or certain but without including proof.
  • Should identify specific constraints or restrictions that limit or place conditions on the Program, especially those associated with the Program scope such as a hard deadline, a predetermined budget, a set milestone, contract provisions, or privacy or security considerations; and
  • Should classify any constraints by category.
Program Organization

Program Governance
  • Should provide a program organization structure to serve the Program and its participants; and
  • Should refers to roles and responsibilities of the Program team and it interfaces with all stakeholders.
Program team structure
  • Should show the structure of the program team and stakeholders; and
  • Should clearly identify the names of the program sponsor, program director or manager, and key specialists specialists.
Roles and responsibilities
  • Should defines the roles and responsibilities assigned to the Program team members and any stakeholders or working groups that have a significant influence on the program; and
  • Should include responsibilities for all stakeholders, working groups, and committees listed in Program governance and "Program team structure" 
Program facilities and resources
  • Should identify the need for any facilities and material resources such as office space, computer equipment, office equipment, and support tools can involve significant effort and costs; and
  • Should identify responsibilities for obtaining the specific items needed to support the Program's development environment.
Program Charter Template

Under Construction  


A program charter authorizes the existence of a program, and provides a  program manager with authority to apply organizational resources to program activities

It includes most elements of a preliminary program scope statement, which describes what is and what is not included in the program and supports decision-making process and is also often used as a communication tool.

This site provided a checklist of information management guidelines for program charter and a template to help jump-start a program.