Stakeholders are individuals who are affected by a project or who have some sort of influence over the project. Stakeholders have a vested interest in how the project turns out, whether it fails or succeeds. Potential stakeholders include both internal people who work for your company and external stakeholders, such as lenders, suppliers and customers. Stakeholders have some disadvantages that you are sometimes able to control.
The role of the stakeholder varies based on his specific interest in the project, but most stakeholders have some sort of responsibility for the project. For example, a stakeholder who is a client of a software development company will likely need to take an active role in planning and implementing the software developed for him. While the involvement is essential to get a product that fits his needs, he also must take time away from his regular duties during the workday to handle his stakeholder responsibilities. Some stakeholders don't want to handle the time commitment or responsibility required.
Communication is an essential component of any project. For a stakeholder who isn't directly working on the project, communication is sometimes a problem. If the company handling the project doesn't keep the stakeholder in the communication loop, she may feel abandoned. Stakeholders may get nervous or frustrated if they don't know what is happening on a regular basis. Without regular, standardized communications, stakeholders may miss out on key decisions or have no idea what is happening and when input is needed.
While some stakeholders have a great deal of control within the project, others have less influence. Without having an active role in the development and handling of the project, the stakeholder is at the mercy of the company to complete the project competently. For example, a lender typically sets some restrictions and requirements when lending money to a business but has little control over the day-to-day operations of the borrower. If the borrower makes poor decisions on product development or other business operations, it is likely to lose money and possibly even close, which affects the lender.
Regardless of the amount of input a stakeholder has in a project, the project may still not be completed successfully. Stakeholders stand to lose money and time if the project doesn't finish within the established deadline. If the project can be salvaged, the stakeholder will likely have to wait longer than expected. If the project is a complete failure, the stakeholder either has to start over from the beginning or scrap the project completely.