Passing the #PMP Exam—Project Charter vs. Project Scope Statement


1. Introduction

I lead a study group that took a PMP exam prep course this summer that was run by the Orange County Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Some of the people that took the course have taken the exam and passed it; the rest of are in the process of registering for the exam and plan to take it soon.

Now that I have completed an exhaustive (and exhausting) review of the 42 project management processes listed in the PMBOK® Guide, I am now going to review various topics that occur within the knowledge areas represented by chapters 4 through 12 of that Guide. I will go roughly in order from chapter 4 on Integration Management all the way through chapter 12 on Procurements Management.

I have compiled a list of topics based on those concepts that gave our study group difficulty either our discussions or our review of questions from practice exams. In this particular post, I review the differences between the Project Charter and the Project Scope Statement. There are differences between them, but both of them have some common elements, so the distinction between them can sometimes get kind of blurry.

The purpose of this post is to make the distinction between them clearer.

2. Project Charter vs. Project Scope Statement: Processes

The project charter is something that is an output of the process 4.1 Develop Project Charter. This is in the Initiating Process Group. As such, it is a document that is created at a high-level (summary rather than detailed) for the purpose of getting the project green-lighted by the sponsor.

Once the sponsor says “yes” to the project, then the project manager can proceed to the Planning Process Group and create the Project Scope Statement as an output of the process 5.2 Define Scope. The Project Scope Statement is created at a detailed level and “fleshes out” many of the descriptions of the project that were contained in the Project Charter. In fact, the Project Charter is an input to the process 5.2 Define Scope along with the Requirements Documentation that is a result of process 5.1 Collect Requirements as the following diagram represents:

3. Project Charter vs. Project Scope Statement: Elements

Here are the elements of the Project Charter (used for approval of the project) compared to the elements of the Project Scope Statement (used in planning of the project). Those elements which are similar are put in the same row.

Project Charter Project Scope Statement
a. Project purpose or justification (fits business needs, strategic plan)
b. Project objectives, product characteristics a. Project scope description,

Project deliverables

c. Project success criteria b. Product user acceptance criteria
d. High-level requirements c. Project boundaries, constraints, assumptions
e. Summary schedule, budget
f. Project manager assigned to project
g. Project approval requirements and approval authority

Let’s discuss these elements in turn:

Project Charter

a. Project purpose or justification

In order for the project to go forward, it has to be for a specific business need and it must fit into the company’s strategic plan. This is why a program manager and/or portfolio manager would be involved in the decision to green light a project. The project has to fit into the company’s work that is external to the project.

b. Project objectives, product characteristics

This is a high-level description of the project, which will be progressively elaborated into a description of the scope of the project as part of the Project Scope Statement.

c. Project success criteria

If the purpose of the project is to produce a product, service, or result, then this is a description of what a successful project will be. This may be related to the Summary schedule, budget item below.

d. High-level requirements

The various stakeholders will have their requirements, assumptions, and risks identified.

e. Summary schedule, budget

This is a high-level estimate or ballpark figure used for preliminary approval of the project. These may be considered as the high-level constraints for the project which are elaborated later during the Define Scope process. Note that if the actual schedule and/or budget as a result of the Planning Process are wildly different from the this summary schedule/budget, it may require a revisiting of the Initiating Process to see if the project c can actually proceed or not.

f. Project manager

This is very important to have a project manager assigned at the Initiating Process and NOT later on during the Planning Process.

g. Project approval requirements and approval authority

Who is the person or persons within the organization who will green light the project and what criteria will they use for doing so?

Project Scope Statement

a. Project scope statement, project deliverables

These are the detailed versions of the project objectives and product characteristics first outlined in the Project Charter.

b. Product user acceptance criteria

The Project Charter stated what a successful project would be. If the objective of the project is to produce a product, then the criteria for the user or customer to accept the product are detailed here.

c. Project boundaries, constraints, assumptions

The constraints are the elements of time, cost, and scope in general, but the “scope” category can include any one of the elements from the knowledge areas such as risk, quality, etc.

4. Project Scope Statement: Boundaries, constraints, and assumptions

These elements of the Project Scope Statement deserve a little focus because they are very important.

a. Boundaries

Creating clear boundaries on a project is important to help prevent scope creep, or the incremental broadening of the scope by the stakeholders. Creating boundaries means setting EXCLUSIONS to the project. What is NOT on the project may be as important to decide at first as what IS on the project.

I had that point brought home to me during an exercise of a Project Management class I took at New Horizons. We were working on the Project Charter and Project Scope Statement for a simple project of doing a community car wash. In our Scope Statement, our team had not specified whether we were going to clean the inside as well as the outside of the customers’ cars. We just assumed that we would clean the outside. The other team had specified this in that they specifically excluded it. This meant that if we were to bid out the running of the car wash to a contractor, then they might bid on the assumption that they were to clean BOTH the inside and outside, whereas the other team had specified that they were to clean ONLY the outside. They would have won the competitive bid, because it’s cheaper to clean only the outside than it is to clean both.

So we learned a valuable lesson as part of that exercise and I have never forgotten about the power of exclusions.

b. Constraints

The important thing to note is that the company should have an understanding of which constraint is the most important. This will often be related to the business case. If a project must create the product within 2 years for it to be profitable, then time would be the major constraint. A company with issues of cash flow might set the cost as the governing constraint.

c. Assumptions

Assumptions are those factors which are considered true for the purpose of planning. It is essential to spell these out because they are the basis for your more detailed descriptions and estimates. If they are challenged, you can always point to the assumptions as the basis for resolving that challenge.

In summary, I hope the similarities and the differences between a Project Charter and a Project Scope Statement have been made clearer because of this post.

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5 Responses

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  4. […] Source: Passing the #PMP Exam—Project Charter vs. Project Scope Statement […]

  5. […] Passing the #PMP Exam—Project Charter vs. Project Scope … – Project Charter vs. Project Scope Statement: … descriptions of the project that were contained in the Project Charter. … elements of the Project Charter … […]

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