Web Developer Hacks To Think Like a Project Manager

Written By John Anderson

Are you working on a massive web development project? More often than not, tasks are given to programmers by the project manager. This is called the waterfall effect. While that may seem OK for some, other web developers like to apply Stephen R. Covey’s first habit of highly effective people: Be proactive.

Or perhaps you’re a programmer looking for ways to step up your coding game and advance in your career. Then, maybe taking on the mantle of a proactive web developer could help you get that promotion quicker.

If you want to be proactive, you'll need to learn how to be the best project manager for yourself. This is to prove that you can juggle all your tasks and complete them without falling behind a set deadline.

Think you have what it takes to become a proactive web developer? Let’s find out.

What Is Being Proactive?

One of the habits of being an effective project manager is being proactive, but what exactly does it mean? As mentioned in Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, becoming proactive means that you are taking responsibility for your life. You can’t blame others or conditions for mistakes that happen to you.

In the world of web development, this means that you don’t wait around for the next task. That’s what a project manager does: They give you the next task via the waterfall effect. 

When you are proactive, you seek out tasks to accomplish the overall goal of the project regardless of the salary difference between a project manager and a developer.

Know the Whole Scope of Your Project

How does each member of your team understand what their role is, what to work on, and how long each task will take to complete? 

One way to find out is to know the whole scope of your project. 

Project managers follow the PMBOK’s guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge) to keep a project smooth sailing.

Even though you are a developer on the project, it’s best to know and be updated on which part of the software process your project is in to have a full grasp of what you’re working on. To get to the level of your project manager, it may be wise to know the official knowledge, areas or process groups they follow in order to deliver a project successfully.

For utmost effectivity, gather your team for a meeting, and discuss the project scope to them. Allow them to air their concerns and suggestions. Knowing what you're getting into together and having a clear view of the objective could help you complete the tasks within budget and ahead of the deadline.

Write Things on Paper

A common challenge that can cause problems between a project manager and a developer is verbal instructions or delegation of tasks. 

Why? People understand things differently depending on how the message is conveyed, how the intended recipient receives it, and what the sender’s tone is. Any one of these can easily go wrong, resulting in miscommunication and misunderstanding.

For this reason, a paper trail is your best bet to avoid complications and missed assignments. Write things on paper or, better yet, have the people you talk to send a copy of their requests, instructions, tasks, decisions, and other verbal communications via email. 

This will make it easier for you to review and verify the instructions rather than asking your project manager to repeat themselves. It will also leave a trail of who said what to whom.

Get Down to the Smallest of Details

With all the work on their plate, web developers acting as their own project manager can easily miss out on the smallest of details. 

Sadly, these small details can also cause the biggest headaches most of the time. That's why it's important to discuss every detail about the project, no matter how small it may seem to be.

Avoid missing out on the smallest details by having a checklist of things to do, raise your tolerance to routine, and make quality work a non-negotiable. These simple tips will help you improve your attention to detail and reduce the chances of a slip-up.

Set Your Own Goals, Priorities, and Timelines

Do you want to make the transition from developer to thinking like a project manager easier or—at the very least—more organized? You need to learn how to set goals and timelines as well as know which tasks you need to prioritize. 

It’s one of the web developer hacks that you need to learn now so you can manage yourself better tomorrow.

As your own project manager, you need to learn how to break down the project into smaller, bite-sized, more manageable tasks. Make sure that each has its own realistic due date. 

Label each task or goal with a priority number, depending on the deadline and/or what can be accomplished the quickest. Some people prefer to start with the toughest goal, but that depends on what you’re more comfortable with. This will also promote accountability for your actions.

Communicate With All the Teams and Team Members Involved 

Did you know that according to 2019 project management statistics, 44% of respondents of a Capterra survey said that team communication improved the final project outcome? 

This leads to another important tip: Learn to communicate with all the teams and team members involved in the project. 

Communicating effectively is important if you want to learn how to become your own project manager. Verbal communication is nice when it comes to praising good work or citing mistakes, but communicating isn’t limited to just that. 

As a developer, you need to use different means to communicate clearly with your team, such as emails, chats on Slack, verbal communication, or project management tools such as Trello and Asana to send instructions or requests. 

Be Open About Your Blockers, and Provide Actionable Solutions

Humility is equally important when you want to learn how to be a successful project manager. Addressing a problem is never a sign of weakness. 

Know when some tasks could give you a tough time, or let your team know the possible hurdles of the project, so your team can step in to help you out. After all, the goal is to finish the entire project.

After you’ve discussed weaknesses and problems with the team, it’s time to think and provide actionable solutions. It all starts by logging the issue and raising it with the team. Communicate with people whose tasks are affected or who can help you resolve the issue.

Thinking Like a Project Manager Makes You a Better Programmer

Web developers and programmers can’t rely solely on their project managers when it comes to any kind of project; not to discount any of devs’ and PMs’ skills, but not all project management techniques are compatible for all types of people.Certainly, programming project managers can find better ways to finish a project efficiently and successfully. Hopefully, these tips will help you transition from being a web developer into thinking like a project management expert.