While there are various types of Project Management Office charters, no two PMOs are exactly alike. They all serve their businesses in different, unique ways.
That’s why it’s helpful to document what your PMO is going to do and what purpose it serves.
In this article we’ll dive more into the purpose and benefits of having Project Management Office charters. We’ll also provide a high level PMO charter template that you can use to kick-start your own PMO activities.
What is a PMO Charter?
The PMO Charter is a document that describes the reason for having a PMO, the services the PMO provides, the context the PMO operates in and anything else that helps describe why it exists, what it does and how it operates.
It’s typically created at the point the organization decides to set up a PMO.
The Benefits of a PMO Charter
The main benefit of having this document is to clarify why the PMO is there and how it serves the organization. Writing it down in an ‘official’ document gives you a common understanding. It’s something to refer to when people ask what you do in the PMO. It is a document you can share with senior managers to explain the objectives and purposes of the team – and gain their buy in for those objectives.
Having your position clearly documented helps avoid confusion. Your Charter explains what the PMO is responsible for. It sets out the resources required. It’s effectively a contract between you and the rest of the business for what to expect.
High Level PMO Charter Template
These are the major headings that should be included in your Charter document. These template sections should be filled out with enough detail to make your position understood. At the same time, try to avoid adding extra words just to make the document “look better”. Shorter is definitely better!
- Background: Explain the reason for setting up the PMO and the challenges you hope the PMO will solve for the business. This section should provide the business context for the existence of the PMO.
- Services: Document the scope of the services the PMO will provide at this point. If you already have your PMO roadmap, you can explain what services will be added in the future. This is the largest section of the Charter. You can go into detail about what each service is, why it adds value, how it will be delivered, risks to providing the service and so on. You should also document what services you will definitely not provide from the PMO, for the avoidance of doubt.
- Team: Describe the organization structure for the department, the key roles and name the individuals if you already have the staff in post. This section should document the resources required now and at the point that you are providing all the services mentioned above. This will help you justify new staff if you need them in the future.
- Stakeholders: Set out the people whom the PMO will serve. These are your customers: project managers, team managers, executive management etc. You can describe how you will engage with them and what you expect from them. You can link them to the services provided: not all stakeholders will receive all services.
- Anything else: Remember this is your personalized document explaining what your PMO will do. Add in anything else that helps you clarify the remit and purpose of the PMO.
Tip: wherever you can, include any diagrams that make the concepts easier to understand. For example an organization chart for the PMO team.
How to Create Your PMO Charter
Given what you want to include in the Charter and how you intend to use it as a communication tool, it is most practical to write it out as a document. A document is easy to refer to, easy to share and needs little to no additional explanation.
You could prepare your Charter as a presentation slide deck, but you may find that unless each slide includes a lot of words, you then have to talk to it in a presentation. Good slide decks rarely standalone so the Charter in this format becomes less useful as something you can issue to other people.
Who Writes the PMO Charter?
Technically, it should be the person responsible for the set up and running of the PMO. In reality, it’s more likely to be a collaborative effort between that person, the PMO team and the executive management.
The PMO team have useful input because they will help shape what services are provided today and what could be delivered in the future. Executive management’s opinion matters because they will ultimately support (or not) the PMO. As a team, you should be delivering what the business needs in a way that support ongoing strategy, and the execs will have a say about that.
Create a draft, circulate it for comment, adapt and refine with input from interested parties, and then you’ll end up with a document you can all support.
What to do With the Document when it’s Written
So you use the Project Management Office charters template headings above and created a document. Great. But what do you do with it now?
First, make sure anyone who needs to has seen it and approved (or at least accepted) it.
But your Charter should be a living document. As and when you add new services, update the document. You don’t have to revise it weekly, but looking at it once a year, or on a schedule that works for you, will be helpful. You’ll be able to compare what you said you would do to what you are doing. You can refer to it during PMO Pulse Checks. You’ll be inspired to stretch your team more. You’ll see how far you have come and how much mature now you are than when your PMO was first set up.
Overall, the Project Management Office charters give you a great basis from which to build a common understanding and a team that supports the business in the most appropriate way. And best of all, everyone will know exactly what that is.