A stakeholder is a person, group, organisation, member or system who affects or can be affected by an organisation's actions.
In terms of Prince2, the definition of a project refers to a temporary organisation and therefore the Project Stakeholders are the people, groups, systems that are directly affected by the delivery of the business products of the project. From the early stages of a project, the Project Manager must identify the key stakeholders and understand the influence they will have on the product delivery.
Stakeholders may be internal or external, such as Trade Unions, or external support. The stakeholders may benefit from the project, however, to some the project may deliver a negative effect, such as reducing team sizes.
Identifying and working with the stakeholders is a key task in the early stages of your projects. As I am from a Prince2 background, i follow the standard 6 step approach to stakeholder engagement and interaction.
1. Who - Identify the key stakeholders
2. What - Understand what the project will mean to the stakeholders. They may gain or loose as products are delivered and therefore their commitment and influence will need to be managed.
3. How - This is the defining of the method of communication to the stakeholder. This will set out the frequency and content of the information that needs to be communicated.
4. When - This will define when the communications and the engagement of the different stakeholders will be required.
5. Do - This is a simple reminder - You must engage with the stakeholders. Make sure you do. You cannot deliver a product without their help, as it may not be fit for purpose.
6. Results - Check that the engagement and communication has been successful. Learn from feedback.
I actually think the 6 step process is a little over the top and will tailor the steps to suite my requirements. The key point is to make sure your stakeholders are engaged early within the project. Be careful, the stakeholder may influence the business in a positive or negative way, so choose your stakeholders wisely. Stakeholders generally include people from the Project Team, Senior Management, the Customer, Resource Managers, User groups, Trade Unions.
Define the stakeholder, Engage the stakeholder and Deliver a successful project !