Spotlight on SpiraPlan 7.2 - Project Charters

September 19th, 2022 by inflectra

We are excited about the upcoming release of SpiraPlan 7.2 next month, it will have many enhancements and security fixes (following our most recent pen-test) as well as two major planned new features - product/project custom properties and an integrated spreadsheet editor. In this article we will be discussing the new project / product custom properties and how you can use them for creating and managing a project charter.

What is a Project Charter?

A project charter is a formal, typically short document that describes your project in its entirety — including what the objectives are, how it will be carried out, and who the stakeholders are. It is a crucial ingredient in planning the project because it is used throughout the project lifecycle. The project charter may include such sections as:

  • Reasons for the project
  • Objectives and constraints of the project
  • The main stakeholders
  • Risks identified
  • Benefits of the project
  • General overview of the budget

Some of these items are textual in nature (vision, objectives, constraints, etc.) , others maybe numeric (e.g. budget) and some may be picklists from a master list that your organization maintains (skills needed, platform, technologies, priority to the business, industry, geography, etc.).

A Sample Project Charter

To illustrate how companies typically create a project charter, we will look at a sanitized example from one of our clients that used an Excel based solution.

Project Background

This section includes key information such as the background, purpose, scope, references, and any terminology used in the project:

Project Charter - Background section

Project Overview

The project overview will typically contain key project information such as the programming languages used, the platform, database, and other key technologies. In addition, it may list the start date and end date, any review milestones and who is in charge of the project. It may also include fields for the customer stakeholders and key point of contact.

Project Charter - Summary section

It may also have large text sections for the project summary, any assumptions, constraints and objectives.

Project Strategy

The project strategy section will include sections for the project vision, roadmap and any high level information about the plan to transition the finished system to the end user. Typically this section is mainly large text blocks that are used to capture freeform sections about the project.

Project Charter - Project strategy section

Configuration Management Plan

The configuration management plan section will be used to document the key assets used in the project, a description of what software and hardware will be used, as well as a description of where project documents will be stored and how they are versioned, reviewed and released.

Project Charter - Configuration management section

The configuration plan may also discuss the configuration of code assets including what source code repository will be used and what branch and release strategy will be used (e.g. using Git with GitFlow feature, release and hotfix branches). If there are standards around the naming conversion of product releases, that should also be documented here.

Other Plans

This section will be used to document any other plans not already included:

 Project Charter - Other plans section

For example, your project may have the following additional plans:

  • Project review plan
  • Defect and problem resolution plan
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery plan
  • Risk management process and plan
  • Quality Assurance (QA) plan
  • Managerial process plan

New Product Custom Properties

As mentioned at the start of this article, the new version of SpiraPlan v7.2 coming out next month has support for project-level custom properties. This is a crucial feature, that together with the new spreadsheet editor and the existing document management and rich content editing functionality, provides the perfect platform for creating and managing project charters. Before we discuss project charters, we'll just recap the highlights of this new feature.

Administration Functionality

The new functionality (available only in SpiraPlan, not SpiraTest or SpiraTeam) will allow administrators to define custom properties and associated custom lists on SpiraPlan products (aka projects).

Custom properties defined on a product itself

This is separate from the existing custom properties that are defined for product templates. Those let you define custom properties for artifacts in the product (e.g., requirements, test cases, etc.). These new custom properties are defined for the product workspace itself. In the future, we will be extending the functionality to provide custom properties on other workspaces such as programs and portfolios as well as on users and resources.

For the list-based custom properties (both single-select and multi-select), you can map the custom property to a centralized list of system-wide custom lists. This lets you reuse the same list of values for multiple custom properties, as well as allowing us in the future to use the same list for programs, portfolios, and users.

Viewing the system-wide custom lists

Each custom list can contain a set of values that would be useful to categorize a project with.

Program Manager Functionality

To access the new functionality, you simply need to choose a program from the SpiraPlan workspace selector (e.g., “Sample Program”) and then click on the new "Products” menu entry that is now available under the program “Artifacts" menu.

The new Products menu entry under Programs

That will display the new Program > Product list page. This displays all of the active products in the current program:

List of products displayed for a program with different fields visible

This list view lets you see all of the products/projects together with their key configuration settings and any defined custom properties.

When you click on one of the items, SpiraPlan will display the details page for that product:

Details page for a product in a program, with custom fields visible.

On this page, you can see all of the standard product fields (name, description, website, program, template), any of the key product settings (baselining enabled, etc.), and any of the custom properties grouped by the same headings as you would see on a typical artifact page.

Implementing Project Charters in SpiraPlan

To implement a project charter, you will take each of the elements from your existing MS-Excel or MS-Word based charter and map it to the different options available inside SpiraPlan:

  • Project Custom Properties: These are the primary option, and are best for rich text blocks, category selections and other pick-lists
  • Project Documents: These are good where you have existing MS-Word, Excel or PDF documents that you want to simply reuse
  • Spira Live Documents: These are a good option for a longer document that you want to create for the first time. It can be used for processes, policies, team standards and other items that are too large for rich text custom properties.
  • Spira Live Spreadsheets: These are a good option where you have a grid of data to be managed,for example the list of hardware requirements for the project, or a list of deliverables with dates.
  • Spira Live Diagrams: These are the best option where you want to describe a process visually, for example, the project escalation process or defect triage process.

In the following sections we shall illustrate each of these in a sample mini-project charter.

Project Custom Properties

Most of the items in a typical project charter can be represented as custom properties on the product itself:

Project custom properties

Using the following custom lists for the fields that are list-based:

Project custom lists

When displayed for the end users, this would then look like:

Project details page - top part

and the lower part of the screen will display all of the larger, rich text fields:

Project details page - detailed section

Project Documents

For those parts of the project charter that are externally created documents, the easiest thing is to just create document folders and then upload them into the SpiraPlan documents repository:

Project documents

That way you have all the documents in one central location, and you have access to the built-in Spira features such as versioning, workflow, check-in/out and electronic signatures.

Spira Documents

If you don't already have some of the documents written, then you can simply use the built-in Spira document creation and editing features to create the documents right in the project:

Project wiki - rich text

You can author the documents either using the built-in rich text editor, or instead use Markdown (.MD) which is then live-previewed into the final content:

Project wiki - markdown

Spira Spreadsheets

Some of the sections of a project charter may be more tabular in nature. These will be best suited to using the new SpiraPlan spreadsheet editor:

Project spreadsheet information

For example, the following sections are often described using a spreadsheet:

  • Project Roles & Responsibilities
  • Deliverables & Acceptance Criteria
  • Terms and Acronyms
  • Staffing Plan
  • Resource Acquisition Plan
  • Stakeholder Involvement Plan
  • Metrics Collection Plan
  • Hardware / Asset Tracking

Spira Diagrams

Finally, there may be some parts of the project charter that describe processes that are best represented as a flowchart or decision tree, rather than a document or spreadsheet. For those, the SpiraPlan diagram editor is the perfect tool. For example, here's a sample defect resolution process diagram:

Project process diagram

Other processes that could use the diagram flowchart option would be:

  • Project overall lifecycle model
  • Managerial process plan
  • Client escalation plan
  • Defect resolution process
  • Quality assurance plan
  • Project deliverable review process

Conclusion

We have seen that the new project-level custom properties in SpiraPlan 7.2, together with the other functionality now available in SpiraPlan (spreadsheets, document management, diagrams and rich content editing) give you a single place to create and manage your project charters. In addition, all of the existing SpiraPlan project artifacts are available, integrated with the charter - project risks, work breakdown structure (WBS), project plans in the Gantt chart, project requirements, quality assurance artifacts, and key project issues.

spotlight roadmap program management portfolio management project charter

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