Over the past decade, the tools that let staff who aren’t coders transform and analyze data have gotten more and more powerful. Even in machine learning and AI, “Auto ML” is just beginning to allow power users to do some work that only a few years ago required a highly skilled data scientist.

But in the rush to build better tools, no one’s addressing a major challenge: how can large organizations unleash this powerful tech without creating a hot mess? Because these tools aren’t magic:

  • Easy to Use Doesn’t Mean Easy to Master. Just because tools let users do more doesn’t mean it’s easy for users to use them effectively. For example, when power users reach the point where they need to go beyond what’s simple to do with a tool, they’ll need guidance if they aren’t going to end up squandering huge amounts of time. This is especially true because unlike data scientists and database developers, many power users won’t be using their skills every day or even every week
  • Lots of Power Users + No Discipline = Rat’s Nest. As lots of power users take on responsibility for more complex data work, if they don’t adopt at least a lightweight version of version control, lifecycle management, data governance, etc., organizations will end up replacing rigid, centralized monoliths with a decentralized Wild West. But if organizations treat power users like software developers and data scientists, they’ll create structures that will undermine the advantages of empowering power users. And in finding that balance, they’ll also have to figure out how to overcome resistance they’ll inevitably encounter from many departments.

Based on research at Makers All and decades of field experience, we’re developing a solution called Data Chefs. It’s a framework for:

  • Growing an organization’s internal ecosystem to help power users flourish, using an iterative, Agile approach that racks up small, strategic wins while building towards larger victories
  • Building an ecosystem across organizations so they can share knowledge, pool resources, and collectively work to smooth the learning curve from beginner to power user to data scientist/engineer
  • Using this ecosystem across organizations to connect large organizations to the community, so communities can also benefit – and in doing so, laying the groundwork to help communities from Harlem to Harlan County benefit from the explosion of wealth that will be created by emerging tech over the next 20 years

To achieve these goals, Data Chefs advocates for 7 principles for growing thriving ecosystems of power users.

NOTE: Data Chefs is a work in progress. This is v.0.2