What is the Difference between a Project Charter and a Gate Document?

by | Jul 6, 2023 | Blog Post

Demystifying the Project Charter and Gate Document: Understanding the Key Differences

In the realm of project management, a well-structured framework is essential for successful project execution. Two important documents that play a crucial role in project initiation and progression are the Project Charter and Gate Document. While these terms may sound similar, they serve distinct purposes and are employed at different stages of the project lifecycle. In this blog post, we will explore the fundamental differences between a Project Charter and a Gate Document, shedding light on their unique features and significance.

What is a Project Charter?

The Project Charter is your starting point when it comes to New Product Development, and your first step to getting your project underway. The project charter is completed early in the planning stage – and it will help sell your project’s viability to stakeholders and provide you with the authorization you need to begin the project.

A Project Charter is a formal document that outlines the project’s goals, objectives, scope, stakeholders, and high-level requirements. It serves as the foundation for the project, providing a clear understanding of the project’s purpose and direction. The Project Charter is typically created during the project initiation phase and is often developed by the project sponsor or a project manager in collaboration with key stakeholders. It helps establish a common understanding among project participants, aligning their efforts towards a shared vision.

It is also a great document to refer to throughout the whole lifespan of your project. It reminds people what it is that you’re doing and what agreements are in place. It also ensures that your project stays in line with your organisational strategy and that you are executing your strategy accordingly.

Key Components of a Project Charter:

1. Project Title and Description: A concise description of the project’s purpose, including its goals and objectives.

2. Problem Statement: A short summary of ‘why’ the project is being carried out. What problem will this project solve? Or what opportunity will it take advantage of?

3. Project Scope: Clearly defines the boundaries of the project, outlining what is included and excluded.

4. Project Team: Identifies the individuals or groups impacted by the project and their roles. Who are the project team members? Who are the key stakeholders? Gatekeepers? Here you can identify and assign key roles and responsibilities. Listing the names and responsibilities of the parties involved, and stating their different tasks holds team members accountable.

5. Deliverables: Enumerates the tangible outcomes expected from the project. Be clear on what your team is delivering to avoid disagreement and delays.

6. Milestones and Timelines: Establishes important project milestones and their associated timelines.

7. Project Risks: Identifies potential risks and uncertainties that may impact the project.

8. Key Documents and Resources: An outline of the key documents that will be required, as well as a list of resources you will need. Not just financial resources, but anything that is critical to the project’s success, such as team members, facilities, and equipment.

9. Project Alignment: Is the project aligned with the organisational strategy?

10. Exit Criteria: What conditions need to be met in order to close the project?

What is a Gate Document?

A Gate Document, also known as a Stage Gate or Phase Gate Review, is a document used to assess the project’s progress at critical stages or gates throughout its lifecycle. It serves as a decision-making tool for project sponsors and stakeholders to evaluate whether the project should proceed to the next phase or gate. The purpose of the Gate Document is to ensure that the project remains aligned with its goals, objectives, and strategic priorities, while also assessing its feasibility and viability.

The Gate Document is presented at a Gate Meeting – These meetings are like quality control checkpoints – they are meetings between the project team and senior management to assess the quality of the project, ensure the project is being executed properly, and provide go/kill and prioritization decision points. If a project is given the go-ahead, they approve the action plan and resources for the next stage.

The gate document is vital to the decision-making process. The way a project is presented in the gate presentation, along with the information that is put forward, all influence how decisions are made.

Key Components of a Gate Document:

1. Project Status: Provides an overview of the project’s current state, including accomplishments, challenges, and risks.

2. Evaluation Criteria: Specifies the criteria against which the project will be evaluated at each gate, such as financial viability, market demand, technical feasibility, and resource availability.

3. Gate Review Process: Outlines the process and participants involved in the gate review, including the criteria used to make decisions.

4. Decision Outcome: Documents the decision made at the gate review, whether to proceed, redirect, or terminate the project.

5. Action Plan: Identifies the actions required to address any concerns or issues raised during the gate review.

6. Milestones and Deliverables: Determines the upcoming milestones and deliverables for the next phase or gate.

Differences between a Project Charter and a Gate Document:

1. Purpose and Timing: A Project Charter is created at the beginning of the project to define its purpose and align stakeholders, while a Gate Document is developed during the project’s execution to evaluate its progress and determine the next steps.

2. Content: A Project Charter provides an overall project framework, including goals, scope, and stakeholders, while a Gate Document focuses on assessing project performance against predetermined criteria.

3. Stakeholder Engagement: The Project Charter involves collaboration among key stakeholders to establish project direction, whereas the Gate Document typically requires input from project sponsors and decision-makers.

4. Level of Detail: The Project Charter provides a high-level view of the project, while a Gate Document delves into specific details and evaluations based on predefined criteria.

5. Authorization: The Project Charter signifies the initial authorization and commitment to the project, whereas a Gate Document determines whether the project should proceed to the next phase or gate.


Both the Project Charter and Gate Document play crucial roles in the project management process. While the Project Charter sets the stage by establishing project goals and aligning stakeholders, the Gate Document serves as a decision-making tool, evaluating project progress at critical junctures. Understanding the key differences between these two documents is vital for project managers and stakeholders to navigate the project lifecycle effectively, ensuring successful project outcomes. By utilizing both documents appropriately, project teams can achieve clarity, alignment, and informed decision-making throughout the project’s journey.

Related Reading:

Project Charter – The Complete Guide

Unlocking Success with Stages and Gates

Structure of Gates in a Phase Gate Process

How Many Gates?

Gate Presentation Best Practice

Creating an Eye-Catching Gate Presentation

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