Chevron Leads the Way in Citizen Development by Extending Data Lake Accessibility with Microsoft Dataverse

Chevron has been at the forefront of the energy industry for more than 140 years, and while there are many factors contributing to this success, it’s clear the ingenuity and creativity of its people continuously pave the way for innovation.

The global company has always empowered its workforce to solve business challenges. A solid example is how Chevron was an early adopter of the Microsoft Power Platform, which plays a crucial role in advancing how anyone at the company can make significant business impacts through technology—regardless of their discipline or function. Enrolling and cultivating a global force of citizen developers has required new approaches to generate, test, and replicate innovative ideas faster, at lower cost, and with less risk.

Recently, Chevron partnered with Microsoft to use low-code solutions to remove data access barriers. Providing easier access to data is just one of these successes, and the results are impressive—increased productivity across the organization.

Chevron has been a leader in embracing citizen development, teaming with Microsoft to advance low-code capabilities, governance, and training on a global enterprise scale. Their collaboration has been critical to the growth of the Power Platform, ensuring people with varying technical skill levels can build and maintain solutions that make important business impacts.

Removing data access barriers  

For any organization, easy and secure access to data is one of the greatest obstacles to building sustainable business applications—whether low code or not. The solution is to store the data as parquet files in a secure data lake. Otherwise, applications end up relying on duplicative data repositories with varying levels of reliability and access risks that have traditionally been a headache for even the most seasoned professional developers. Because Chevron is well versed in data lake development, the company knew this was the approach they needed to take to better enable its rapidly growing citizen developer community.

It was not simple undertaking. The enterprise scale of this challenge meant it didn’t need to be solved just once – the team needed to establish a repetitive pattern to allow anyone to follow the same steps to access the data lake. Fidelity with respect to access rules also had to be maintained from user back to source. The team created a proof-of-concept based on Power Platform telemetry data, which is also being used to better understand and improve use of the Platform.

Traditionally, citizen developers, or “makers,” had to spend days on a multi-step process of identifying the data folder or parquet file, requesting appropriate access, configuring a Power Apps connection, and ensuring proper permissions were in place and effective. Now, using Synapse Analytics with the virtual table connector in Dataverse, Chevron eliminated the “heavy lifting” steps, allowing makers to spend less time on data access and more time building innovative solutions.

graphical user interface, text, application, email
Create virtual tables from external data sources with Microsoft Dataverse

Creating Dataverse virtual tables using Power Platform telemetry data stored in data lake:

  • Enables direct and easy consumption of external data while extracting its complexities,
  • Shortens time to develop working application,
  • Prevents duplication or replication of external data,
  • Increases adoption of virtual tables

The resulting business value associated with the implementation of virtual tables and Synapse Analytics includes:

  • Simplified and secure access to data lake parquet files
  • Shortened time from ideation to design and ultimately a working application
  • Faster feedback to produce iterations that lead to a final, produced application

“We want to make it easy to do the right thing when it comes to data architecture and reducing data duplication, and Microsoft Dataverse helps make it possible. Not only does it eliminate complexity associated with virtual tables, it helps modernize data that needs a home by liberating and protecting stranded data traditionally stored in Excel files.”

— Tavia Prouhet Product Owner, Chevron Low code and automation, Catalysts

The sustainable future of low code at Chevron

Chevron’s workforce relies on hundreds of business applications to perform their day-to-day roles as they solve some of the world’s most difficult energy challenges. Throughout the past decade, the company has blurred the lines between traditional IT and business, teaming to embrace cloud and SaaS, reduce application complexity, enhance agility, and scale solutions. The results are clear. And as these efforts advanced, the question became how to handle the unique needs within the organization—those that are not mission critical or connected to broader workflows already supported by the company’s impressive solution portfolio. The answer—low code. An approach that lets the people closest to the business problem develop a solution that follows company technical standards regardless of their development skills.

Low code platforms provide an intuitive approach to software development with minimal or no coding to build applications and processes that help both the business and IT. Enterprise licensing enables every individual in the organization to have full capabilities and contribute to the continuous digital transformation.

Key to its low code success, Chevron enrolled and trained a community of developers who create solutions for complex problems and lean on each other for support. The company cultivated a sense of community across low code users, including more than 2,800 innovators. The apps empower employees to increase productivity, drive efficiency and enhance reliability. Chevron also maintains a robust upskilling program for employees that ensures sustainable progress. As of mid 2023, over a hundred teams across the globe have participated in these programs, with over 500 participants supported by several hundred mentors and previous program graduates. Internally, the citizen developer movement is referred to as RADD, which stands for Rapidly Accelerating Democratized Development. Living up to that name requires an appropriate method to democratize data, a challenge Chevron willingly accepted as exemplified by their workflow to access the data lake via virtual tables.

Chevron is known as “The Human Energy Company,” and low code and democratized development are powerful enablers in helping its workforce advance the future of energy.

Learn more about Microsoft Power Platform