Project Charter vs. Scope Statement

02 May

Do you know the difference between a scope statement and a project charter?  Both documents are designed to tell everyone associated with the project exactly what the project entails, showcase the schedule, and deal with budgeting and resource issues.  So what is the difference or are they the same?

Quick Definition:

Differences between these two documents:

Project Charter:

  • Official document created and approved by key stakeholders, after project idea has been identified
  • Developed by the corporate executive or sponsor
  • Defines the responsibilities and boundaries of the project manager and the project

Scope Statement:

  • After the project charter is approved, the project manager can proceed with launching team building activities and defining the scope of the project
  • Document that formalizes references the scope of everything that the project must produce that is used for future decision making
  • Developed by the project manager with his/her project team members
  • Acts as a response to the Sponsor/Project Charter

Reasons to Keep These Two Documents Separate:

  • Avoid debate in the project approval phase, as the project charter is easier to gain project approval in the early phases & helps to move the scope statement more quickly to save time in the end
  • Avoid early arguments over: deliverables, precise wording for the milestones, and objectives to help keep the direction of the project in the hands of the project manager, as written in the scope statement
  • Project charter is delivered to those with the authority to sign off on, as it defines the project, and can be used as a reference by the project manager to keep the project on course through the marching orders of upper management
End of the Day Answer: The Project Charter and Project Scope Statement are similar, but different, as I have noted above, and should be kept as separate documents.


7 responses to “Project Charter vs. Scope Statement

  1. Mark

    February 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Thanks again for writing such a great article about project timeline and the difference between scope statement. Thanks again.

    • Jacqueline Pierce

      May 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Thank you for providing a clear explanation on the differences between
      the Project Charter and the Project Scope Statement.

  2. Lisa Drake

    February 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    You are most welcome Mark! I am so glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for your comment!

  3. Hairul

    February 13, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Dear Lisa,

    I thinks most of the companies adopt top down approach where when they receive the project charter, they will try to commit to the date, budget and scope stated in charter. For example, the project is the development of XYZ system and it is expected to finish within 1 year with the project cost of 100k. Let say if the project team fail to commit with the date, budget and scope given, can we consider the project fail? Or can the project charter be different with project schedule of project scope statement after the project team realize that they should have additional resources and timeline to the project?

  4. Angela Kannenberg

    March 23, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Dear Lisa,
    Thank you for being clear on the difference between the scope and charter, I was struggling with which needed to be done and turned in first. The line is very thin when actually working on them.
    Or maybe that is just because I am still learning to do them. Either way, I know now and that’s the important thing.

    Student at ITT-Tech West Covina, CA

  5. Ajay Mittal

    January 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Lisa, thank you for bringing out the difference between the 2 documents. I think the Project Scope document is really needed. Project Charter is an unchangeable document whose purpose is to acknowledge the project and define the broad level scope. However the Scope document gives control to the PM in defining the deliverables more clearly, in tracking scope changes and impact on schedule and costs. This will be one place to go to to review all scope changes with references to approvals.

  6. Daniel

    February 13, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Thank you Lisa. This is good especially for PMO that are just setting up processes. Keeping the Charter and the Scope statement separate is important.


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