Data Insights

Empowering Data Teams: Let Them Choose Their Own Tools

Chris Sean
April 14, 2023
12 min read

In today's data-driven world, it's crucial for businesses to make the most of their data teams. This means providing them with the right tools to succeed in their tasks. Jakub Jurovych, CEO and founder of Deepnote, a powerful notebook platform, recently gave a talk at the Airbytes Conference move(data) about the importance of letting data teams choose their own tools. In this blog post, we'll explore the key points of Jakub's talk and discuss why it's essential to empower data teams with the tools that work best for them.

The Software Engineering Tooling Ecosystem

Software engineering tooling has come a long way over the past few decades. Developers have spent countless hours refining and perfecting tools for their own use, resulting in an incredibly mature ecosystem. This ecosystem includes a wide range of tools and methodologies for every stage of the software development process, from conception to production.

Some of the most significant advancements in software engineering tooling include integrated development environments (IDEs) like Visual Studio and JetBrains, version control systems like Git, and project management methodologies such as Agile and Scrum. These tools have allowed developers to collaborate, track changes, and streamline their workflows efficiently.

However, as Jakub points out, while incredibly beneficial for software engineers, this ecosystem isn't always ideal for data teams. While software engineering focuses on shipping a working product, data teams often aim to extract insights and understand underlying problems. Consequently, the tools and workflows designed for software engineering may not be the best fit for data teams.

The Unique Needs of Data Teams

Data teams have different priorities and goals than software engineers. Rather than optimizing for code quality, data teams focus on achieving the fastest possible time to insight. This often involves a messy and non-linear exploration process, with numerous SQL queries and visualizations created and discarded along the way.

The challenges faced by data teams include the following:

  1. Data quality and consistency: Data teams often have to deal with incomplete, inconsistent, or erroneous data, which requires thorough cleaning and validation before analysis can begin.
  2. Data integration: Data teams must combine data from multiple sources, often in different formats, which can be a complex and time-consuming process.
  3. Scalability: As data volumes continue to grow, data teams need tools that can handle large-scale data processing and analysis efficiently.
  4. Collaboration: Data teams typically consist of professionals from diverse backgrounds, such as data scientists, data engineers, and analysts. These team members need to collaborate effectively to make the most of their collective expertise.
  5. Iterative analysis: Data analysis is often an iterative process, with data teams continuously refining their models and assumptions based on the insights they uncover.

As a result, the code produced by data teams is often messy and unsuitable for reuse. This is where the concept of exploratory programming comes into play. First popularized in a 1983 paper by Bo Shield, exploratory programming is an approach that recognizes the inherent messiness and experimentation involved in the work of data teams. Unlike software engineering, exploratory programming doesn't require rigid workflows and upfront specifications, making it a more suitable model for data-driven projects.

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Let Data Teams Choose Their Tools

Recognizing the differences between software engineering and exploratory programming, Jakub emphasizes the importance of letting data teams choose their own tools. By providing them with the freedom to select the tools that best align with their unique needs and workflows, businesses can enable their data teams to work more efficiently and effectively.

There are several tools and platforms available that cater specifically to the needs of data teams, including:

  1. Data processing and analysis tools: Platforms like Apache Spark, Dask, and Hadoop allow data teams to process and analyze large-scale datasets efficiently. These tools are designed to handle the unique challenges of working with big data, providing scalability and performance that traditional software engineering tools may not offer.
  1. Data visualization and exploration tools: Data visualization is a crucial aspect of data analysis, as it enables data teams to explore and understand their data more effectively. Tools like Tableau, Power BI, and Plotly make it easy for data teams to create interactive and insightful visualizations, helping them uncover patterns and trends in their data.
  2. Notebook environments: Notebook environments like Jupyter, Zeppelin, and Deepnote are designed specifically for exploratory programming and data analysis. They allow data teams to write code, visualize results, and document their findings in a single, interactive environment. This fosters collaboration and makes it easier for data teams to iterate on their analyses.
  3. Data storage and management solutions: Managing and storing large volumes of data can be a challenge for data teams. Data storage solutions like Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, and Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) provide scalable and cost-effective options for storing and managing data.
  4. Machine learning and AI tools: As machine learning and artificial intelligence become increasingly important in data analysis, tools like TensorFlow & PyTorch allow data teams to build and train models more effectively.

By utilizing these specialized tools, data teams can better navigate the complexities of their work and arrive at insights more quickly.

The Benefits of Empowering Data Teams with the Right Tools

When data teams are provided with the tools that best align with their unique needs, several benefits can be realized:

  1. Improved efficiency: By using tools designed specifically for their workflows, data teams can streamline their processes, reducing the time it takes to uncover insights.
  2. Enhanced collaboration: When data teams use tools that facilitate collaboration, they can more effectively share their expertise and work together to solve complex problems.
  3. Increased innovation: By enabling data teams to experiment and iterate more quickly, businesses can foster a culture of innovation and drive the discovery of new insights and opportunities.
  4. Better decision-making: Empowered with the right tools, data teams can deliver more accurate and timely insights, leading to better-informed decision-making throughout the organization.
  5. Greater competitive advantage: As businesses become increasingly reliant on data-driven insights, those that empower their data teams with the right tools will be better positioned to compete in the market.


The future is bright for data teams, as new tools and technologies continue to emerge that cater to their specific needs. By embracing the differences between software engineering and exploratory programming, businesses can empower their data teams with the right tools for success.

To learn more about the future of tooling for data teams, feel free to reach out to Jakub Jurovych on Twitter or via email. And remember, when it comes to empowering your data team, sometimes the best thing you can do is let them choose their own tools. By doing so, you'll not only create a more productive and efficient work environment, but also foster a culture of innovation and collaboration that will drive your organization's success in the data-driven era.

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