A well-structured program charter can provide clarity and direction, particularly in complex, multi-stakeholder environments. The Program Management Professional (PgMP) emphasizes the necessity of considering input from all stakeholders, including sponsors, to initiate and design a successful program and discern its benefits.

Table of Contents

The Program Charter

A program charter is analogous to the blueprint of a building. Its key function is to clearly lay out the program’s scope, objectives, and deliverables, and act as a preliminary contract between the project manager and the sponsor. It sets expectations upfront, removing ambiguity, and ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Incorporating Stakeholder Input

It’s crucial to involve all stakeholders in the program charter’s construction, including sponsors. Stakeholders, be they sponsors, customers, or team members, lend diverse perspectives and are sources of valuable information. They provide insight into potential risks, expectations, constraints, and operational considerations. Critically, they can influence or even determine the success or failure of a program.

Structural Elements of a Charter Developed with Stakeholder Input

In addition to the standard elements of the scope, objectives, and deliverables, program charters that successfully incorporate stakeholder input integrate the following components:

  • Stakeholder Analysis: Summarizes key stakeholders, their interests, and potential impact on the project.
  • Communication Plan: Describes how and when communication will occur between the program management team and stakeholders.
  • Risk Assessment: Incorporates stakeholder insights into potential risks and strategies for mitigation.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Clarifies stakeholder roles, significantly reducing the chance of misunderstandings or disputes later in the project.

How to Gather Stakeholder Input

  1. Stakeholder Meetings: Regular meetings involving all stakeholders can ensure free-flowing communication and involvement in the decision-making process.
  2. Surveys and Interviews: A more formal tactic to gather deep insights from individual stakeholders.
  3. Observation and Documentation: The program manager should continuously document the interactions and requirements expressed by the stakeholders.

Examples

Assume we are initiating a program to upgrade the IT infrastructure of an organization. Here, meeting with key stakeholders such as the CTO, the IT department Lead, end-users, and IT partners can be highly beneficial. They can provide varied perspectives resulting in a well-rounded and comprehensive program charter.

The sponsor would have a clear picture of the monetary and resource commitment, the IT department can foresee and plan for potential risks and roadblocks, and the end-users can communicate their needs and expectations resulting in a more successful program that brings beneficial change.


To summarize, the participation of all parties who have an interest or impact in the program is indispensable to creating an effective program charter.

A hallmark of a well-equipped PgMP professional is their ability to collect, respect, and incorporate this vital stakeholder input to initiate, design, and realize beneficial programs. Constantly working with transparency, collaboration, and alignment across all stakeholders will pave a smoother route to program success.

Practice Test

True or False: A program charter isn’t necessary when initiating a program.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: A program charter is vital when initiating a program. It helps to guide all stakeholders, including sponsors, towards a shared understanding and objectives of the program.

Who should be involved in developing a program charter?

  • A. Sponsors
  • B. Stakeholders
  • C. Program Manager
  • D. All of the above

Answer: D. All of the above

Explanation: A program charter is a collective effort. Involvement from sponsors, stakeholders, and the program manager ensures a comprehensive understanding of the program’s goals and objectives.

True or False: The program charter should not address the expected benefits of the program.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: A critical element of a program charter is the expected benefits. The benefits should directly align with the organization’s strategic objectives.

The program charter should be developed before:

  • A. Identifying Stakeholders
  • B. Defining the Program
  • C. Identifying Sponsors
  • D. None of the Above

Answer: D. None of the above

Explanation: The program charter is usually developed after identifying stakeholders and sponsors and defining the scope and objectives of the program.

True or False: Stakeholder input has no relevant value to the development of a program charter.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: Stakeholders, including sponsors, provide crucial perspectives. Their input helps inform the program’s goals, methods, and expected benefits.

Which of the following does not typically form part of a program charter?

  • A. Program objectives
  • B. Detailed task lists
  • C. Program benefits
  • D. Stakeholder roles and responsibilities

Answer: B. Detailed task lists

Explanation: While program charter outlines high-level goals and objectives, a detailed task list is typically not part of it. That is often contained in project plans within the program.

True or False: Developing a program charter is a one-time process.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: While a program charter is established at the beginning of a program, it can be updated as the program evolves to accommodate any changes, including stakeholder input and program direction.

What role does a sponsor play in developing a program charter?

  • A. Providing Resources
  • B. Input on strategic alignment
  • C. Approving the Program Charter
  • D. All of the above

Answer: D. All of the above

Explanation: Sponsors play a crucial role in developing and approving the program charter and ensuring its alignment with business strategy and resource allocation.

The __________ should explicitly link to the benefits identified in the program charter.

  • A. Business Case
  • B. Funding Proposal
  • C. Project Plan
  • D. Communications Plan

Answer: A. Business Case

Explanation: The business case for the program should directly highlight and support the benefits identified in the program charter.

True or False: The program charter should be confidential and only shared with the project management team.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: The program charter serves as a guide for all involved in the program, including stakeholders and sponsors. Therefore, it should be shared and understood by all involved.

Interview Questions

What is a program charter?

A program charter is a document that formally recognizes the existence of a project or a program. It grants the program manager the authority to allocate resources and make other key decisions essential for the program’s success.

What is the primary purpose of developing a program charter?

The primary purpose of developing a programme charter is to make clear the vision, goals, objectives, and deliverables. It serves as a reference point for all stakeholders, defining their roles, responsibilities and level of authority in the program.

Who should provide input in the development of the program charter?

All stakeholders, including but not limited to, sponsors, program management office (PMO), program manager, project managers, and team members, should provide input in the development of the program charter.

How does the program charter help in program planning and design?

The program charter provides a clear vision and targets, as well as guidelines and constraints, which directs the program planning and design. It sets out the roadmap to achieve the intended benefits and ensures everyone is on the same page.

What are some of the key elements to include in a program charter?

Key elements of a program charter can include the program’s purpose, goals and objectives, key deliverables, identified stakeholders, risk and issues, resources, and the program’s timeline.

What is the role of sponsors in developing the program charter?

Sponsors have a crucial role in developing the program charter. They typically provide the initial vision for the program, identify strategic benefits, allocate resources, and have a part in decision-making processes.

How does the program charter contribute to benefits realization?

The program charter establishes and communicates the goals and objectives of the program, which are typically tied to the strategic benefits that the organization aims to achieve. This promotes a benefits-focused approach throughout the program’s lifecycle.

What could be a potential risk in creating the program charter without stakeholder input?

Without stakeholder input, the program charter’s aligning to stakeholders’ needs and expectations might be missing. This could lead to a lack of acceptance and support from stakeholders, resultant delays, cost overruns, or failure to deliver intended benefits.

How should a program manager handle changes to the program charter?

Change to the program charter should be handled through formal change control processes. Any significant change should be reviewed and approved by the appropriate level of authority, such as the sponsor or the steering committee.

Can the program charter be updated during the life of the program?

Yes, the program charter can be updated during the life of the program. However, this should ideally be a rare occurrence and executed following a formal change control process. It should be re-approved by the program’s sponsor or steering committee.

How can a program charter facilitate communication with stakeholders?

A program charter can facilitate communication by providing stakeholders with a clear picture of the program’s objectives, deliver-ables, timeframes, and defined roles and responsibilities. This can help in setting expectations and promoting transparency.

What is the connection between the program charter and the program management plan?

The program charter is a high-level document that provides direction for the program. The information contained in the charter, such as the vision, goals, objectives, and deliverables, guides the development of the program management plan.

Why are the sponsor’s initials required on a program charter?

The sponsor’s initials on the program charter provide formal acknowledgment and acceptance of the project. It indicates that they agree with the content of the charter and commit to provide necessary resources for the program.

What is the role of the program management office (PMO) in the development of the program charter?

The PMO can play a considerable role in developing the program charter. They can provide a systematized approach, ensuring that the charter is complete, consistent with organizational standards, and aligns with strategic objectives.

What role does risk assessment play in the development of the program charter?

Risk assessment helps identify potential threats and opportunities that could affect the program. By including it in the program charter, all stakeholders become aware of these risks, which can guide decision making and contingency planning throughout the program.

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