Writing a Project Charter saved my butt

So Chegg launched our new eReader today so I thought I would take a moment to talk about writing a Project Charter per Johanna Rothman’s excellent book on project management.

Johanna recommends that for every project you sit down and write out a project charter. The project charter states the purpose of the project, additional goals, the single driving factor, and any constraints. Everyone on the project should be able to state why they’re building the project. Meanwhile, the project manager should know what the real driving factor for the project really is because that’s going to be the key to managing the project.

When I got to Chegg my boss gave me a set of desired attributes for a content management system based on his experiences at Netflix. He also gave me a deadline.

When I sat down to write the project charter I discovered an interesting thing. The project driver wasn’t what anyone thought. The fundamental driver for the project was that we needed to be able to convert 40,000 books in 2 weeks.

Figuring that out actually simplified the problem quite a bit. What we needed was not a content management system like we thought, but rather a cloud-friendly job coordination engine. The deadline, while a constraint, wasn’t the driving factor in the project. Doing 100 books by the deadline wasn’t interesting, it was doing 40K books for the launch that was interesting.

Writing a project charter made sure I built the right thing in the right way.

You can get Johanna’s book at Amazon, I highly recommend it.


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