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Academy shows SMEs how to get to grips with information

23:30 30/04/2017

Big data. Data mining. The internet of things. These are the lucrative concepts SMEs will need to understand if they want to compete in the modern marketplace. And help is at hand in the form of a new centre in Wallonia that aims to untangle the jargon and get small businesses and jobseekers using information to their advantage.

Based in Gosselies near Charleroi, the Data Academy, which opened last October, is a training centre that provides structured courses on data management and analysis. It is, says manager Pierre Lelong, the first initiative of its kind in francophone Belgium, and was created to help businesses understand the assets they are sitting on.

“Companies don’t make the most of the data they have, and they don’t know what
they can and can’t use,” Lelong says of the motivation for creating the courses. The Academy has four main streams, focusing on various roles – chief data officer, data scientist, analyst and big data consultant, which teaches students to build databases. “You don’t necessarily need a degree,” Lelong says.

The training programme comes from the team behind Technofutur, which has been
running courses in web development for nearly 20 years. The move to expand was
spurred by the team’s belief that data is “more valuable than gold or silver”.

It’s a mindset that’s shared by some of the world’s biggest companies. Those with the resources and technical knowhow have been mining data for years – sorting through databases to find patterns or relationships.

Google’s business model relies on massive amounts of data, and EU investigators are even probing the company over potential competitive advantages that it might gain from so much information. But SMEs can lose out if they neglect valuable information, and Lelong believes the courses will make businesses more competitive. “The response we’ve received from them has been very positive,” he says.

While some sectors – like energy and banking – are beginning to use big data,
most information held by companies is unused, he says. Estimates by the BigStorage European training network show 72% of data held by companies is unused, with that figure only likely to grow; a 2016 study by IBM shows 90% of the world’s data was created in the preceding two years.

It’s not just SMEs that can benefit from picking up these skills – jobseekers could profit too. A 2016 study by LinkedIn saw employers name data analysis proficiency as among their most sought-after skills.

And data mining, which the Academy offers as one of more than 40 standalone
courses, was cited by employers in half of the surveyed countries as the top skill they look for in new recruits. The Academy is now accepting students
for its 2017 courses.

Written by Mari Eccles