The Influential Product Manager

How to Lead and Launch Successful Technology Products


This book is a comprehensive and practical guide to the core skills, activities, and behaviors that are required of product managers in modern technology companies.
Product management is one of the fastest growing and most sought-after roles by job seekers and companies alike. The availability of trained and experienced talent can barely keep up with the accelerating demand for new and improved technology products. People from nontechnical and technical backgrounds alike are eager to master this exciting new role.

The Influential Product Manager teaches product managers how to behave at each stage of the product life cycle to achieve the best outcome for the customer. Product managers are under pressure to drive spectacular results, often without wielding much direct power or authority. If you don't know how to influence people at all levels of the organization, how will you create the best possible product?

This book distills over twenty years of hard-won field experience and industry knowledge into lessons that will empower new product managers to act like pros right out of the gate. With hands-on product experience from UC Berkeley, and MasterClass, the author boils down the most complex topics into principles that are easy to memorize and apply.

This book methodically documents the tools product managers everywhere use to align their teams with market needs and organizational goals. From setting priorities to capturing requirements to navigating trade-offs, this book makes it easy. Not only will your product succeed, you'll succeed, too. Let your product's success become your success!

Available in both Paperback and Ebook now on Amazon

For discounted bulk orders, contact BK Publishers

About the Author

Ken Sandy has led technology product management teams for over 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an industry fellow and lecturer at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he pioneered and now teaches the first product management course offered in the engineering school.

His work draws on leading teams at fast-growth, early-stage companies as well as at larger companies attempting digital transformation amid industry disruption. At all these companies, he consistently defined, launched, and managed award-winning web and mobile products that were loved by customers and used by millions across 60-plus countries. He was vice president of product at the premier online learning companies MasterClass and More

Ken Sandy (Author)

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“It’s the instruction manual (and now my go-to desk reference) that only the most seasoned, thoughtful, honest product guru and mentor could create—guiding you through the hiccups of making truly great products and even demystifying tough topics like how to go about understanding users’ needs and how to collaborate with your team while leading them too.”

Marisa Gallagher, Head of UX and Design, Amazon Music
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“This book outlines stellar frameworks and, more importantly, philosophical guidance on how Product and Engineering can build relationships, collaborate effectively, and share mutual respect. While the companies I’ve worked for have had a variety of cultures, ultimately the core principles around effective collaboration stay the same, and this book shines a bright light on these principles for both Product and Engineering leaders to embrace.”

Eric Bogs, Engineering Leader, Facebook, and former engineering leader, Google, Spotify, Yahoo!, Etsy, and Hinge
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“The Influential Product Manager captures the art of product development all in one place. Ken Sandy emphasizes courage, focus, commitment, respect, and openness, which strike me as values that apply to all aspects of product development, from ideation and design to implementation and delivery to the customer. I plan on recommending this book to all my product management, engineering, and design colleagues as an excellent guide to working together to delight our customers and build great products!”

David Zabowski, Vice President of Engineering, Nerdwallet
Slide 1

“The Influential Product Manager is essential reading for both product managers looking to hone their craft and stakeholders who would like to improve their working relationship with a product organization. Ken Sandy packs his incredible talent for coaching and developing teams onto the page, providing the most comprehensive survey of the product discipline and tools for success that I’ve ever read.”

Matt Sanchez, Senior Vice President of Platforms, Hearst Magazines
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What You'll Get When You Purchase Today


First, Think Like a Product Manager

Differentiate yourself with four powerful mindsets.

  1. Four mindsets that influential product managers deliberately employ— with strategies you can use in your daily work throughout the product lifecycle.

  2. How you can generate superior customer and business outcomes through a more motivated team focused on executing against the product vision.

  3. Ways to detect and navigate common pitfalls and techniques, and to avoid common cognitive biases you may face.


Lead through Influence

Establish context across your organization and communicate effectively with stakeholders.

  1. What’s meant by the (often misunderstood) term “leading (or managing) through influence” and how you can apply it.

  2. Powerful but simple techniques to help you develop strong relationships with stakeholders across your organization.

  3. How to avoid common communication pitfalls that can undermine your effectiveness when working with senior management.


Understand Your Customer

Answer five key questions to define the customer you serve and why.

  1. The five questions you need to ask (and answer) about customers and their needs—before you endeavor to create a solution.

  2. How to use powerful but simple frameworks to define your target customers, including the ways in which they address their own needs today and your risks and
    assumptions about them.

  3. How to devise compelling value propositions and differentiation statements that communicate the benefits of your solution to your prospective customers.


Collaborate to Set Priorities

Focus on the highest-impact opportunities and align stakeholders behind your product's goals.

  1. Your role as a product manager in evaluating and driving alignment of product priorities and the frequent challenges you will face.

  2. Techniques you can use for collaboratively prioritizing product initiatives, whatever your company culture, while balancing the need for speed and precision.

  3. How to approach the incremental optimization of existing features using user-behavior feedback loops through split-testing.


Discover and Validate Customer Needs

Test your assumptions and emergent product solutions through continuous customer feedback.

  1. Why you must conduct product discovery and validation with customers both from the start of, and continuously throughout, the product lifecycle.

  2. How to structure a routine and low-effort validation process to improve product decisions, building customer empathy.

  3. How to get the most from user interviews, validating whether users value and can use your potential product solution to achieve their goals.


Define the Right Product

Use hypothesis-driven specifications to get your team exploring solutions and delivering on outcomes.

  1. How to deliver hypothesis-driven and contextually relevant product specifications for any initiative, aligning stakeholders and allowing you and your team to focus.

  2. The principles and benefits behind tightly constraining product initiative’s goals and scope to speed time-to- market, reduce risk, and avoid overinvestment.

  3. How to apply a five-step top-down framework and a powerful, yet concise, product-specification template.


Capture User-Centric Requirements

Frame desired functionality from your user's point of view and remain adaptable to new learning.

  1. How to collaborate with a broad range of stakeholders to define powerful customer and business-centric requirements.

  2. What methodologies to use to capture product-requirement details and the expected outcomes in a way that is flexible and time-efficient.

  3. How to create and regularly groom a product backlog, ensuring you execute the most critical, timely needs.


Partner with Engineering

Build trusted relationships and execute smoothly in collaboration with your primary stakeholder.

  1. The mutually supportive roles and responsibilities that product managers and engineers have in the development process.

  2. Techniques to build and maintain strong relationships with engineers and to overcome common challenges.

  3. Ways to engage engineering effectively to facilitate and advance the product through implementation phases.


Navigate Challenging Trade-Offs

Generate value quickly and sustainably by managing the tension between scope, time, quality, and resources.

  1. The ability to comprehend the inherent trade-offs necessary between scope, speed-to-market, quality, and resources when building technology products.

  2. Techniques to manage stakeholder expectations for project scope and delivery dates, and effectively communicate trade-off decisions with stakeholders.

  3. Tips on how to avoid the hidden impact on your product and your engineering team’s morale that can come if you fail to address technical debt over time.


Launch for Impact

Bring your product into the market smoothly, exciting customers and stakeholders with your solutions.

  1. How to ensure smooth deployment of new functionality to users, in close collaboration with your technology teams.

  2. How to work effectively with your organization to successfully manage an impactful and exciting market launch.

  3. Disciplined techniques to reduce risk prior to launch, and to address high-visibility issues after launch, so as to maximize customer satisfaction and meet business expectations.


Measure Success

Utilize meaningful metrics to track and increase the value you deliver to customers.

  1. Five categories of customer-centric metrics for measuring a product’s performance and to show where to focus for improvements.

  2. How to design useful customer- and business-centric metrics and the common pitfalls to avoid.

  3. Frameworks and example metrics you can use for your product.


Advance Your Career

Evaluate your skills and identify professional growth opportunities.

  1. Perspectives on how to view your strategic role and responsibilities in a modern technology organization.

  2. Five superpowers that outstanding product managers possess and that you can acquire.

  3. How to view your product management career trajectory, with advice for aspiring but nontechnical product managers.

Interested in The Influential Product Manager’s bonus material?