The assumption that data analytics is an area of expertise guarded and explored exclusively by data specialists is being widely challenged. Today, data mining, its visualization and analysis are used by virtually any professional layer in large corporations to improve individual and organisational performance. However, data is yet to find its way to become a source for decision-making among entrepreneurs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs),that are rarely well equipped with necessary skills to collect and understand mysterious numbers about their customers. Developing such skills can be a demanding solo trip, unless accompanied with relevant and effective training.
Who has pulled the strings?
According to Tom Davenport, Professor of IT and Management at Babson College (USA), the ever-growing need in data analytics skills among entrepreneurs, has been dictated by two interrelated factors , i.e. a growing mass of data generated on the Internet and a fast-paced increase of online companies generating these data. Well-known US companies, including Facebook, Amazon and Google, as well as the Chinese tech giants like Baidu and TenCent, have ‘made entrepreneurs care more about [data] analytics’ and showed how it can be used to achieve intended results. Like their larger competitors, the SMEs with data-literate professionals can benefit from the well-processed data and data-driven decision-making in many ways, e.g. aligning their business strategy, improving their offerings, and highlighting their competitive advantage among others in a respective market segment.
“First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one”, Will McAvoy from The Newsroom
Though large corporations are making the most out of the possibilities offered by data analytics tools and techniques, micro- and SMEs, constituting 99% of all companies  in Europe, experience difficulties in applying them. As reported by OECD , ‘software applications to manage business information flows are popular among large firms (more than 75% adoption rate in 2014) but less used by SMEs (less than 20%).’ Later, the Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship  echoed the same concern stating that ‘small European businesses are slow to change and over 41% of EU companies have yet to adopt any of the new advanced digital technologies including … big data analytics.’ Yet sounding dismal, such statistics opens new doors for those who are competent to show the way-out.
What’s in the data analytics combo for present and future entrepreneurs?
Back in 2009, Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, predicted that a data savvy specialist would be ‘a sexy job [to have] in the next 10 years’ . Particularly, he meant statisticians and data scientists. Little did he know that the “sexiness” of data analytics skills would travel far beyond these jobs. More recently, in 2018, Dr. Soraya Sedkaoui, senior lecturer at Université de Montpellier (France) and data analyst, denoted that future entrepreneurs, able to slice and dice the data, should demonstrate  not only soft skills and a general entrepreneurial streak, but also sex up their scope of competences with the expertise in Math and Stats, data mining and data modelling. By and large, the next generation of entrepreneurs is expected to use data analytics methods ‘to extract value and enhance their professional capabilities.’
Data SET project
The answer to such a tough call seems obvious enough – training the generation of data-literate entrepreneurs. The Data SET Project encourages to improve the knowledge and skills of entrepreneurship education providers (VET colleges, enterprise agencies, local authorities, HEIs) in conceiving and delivering relevant data analytics skills for entrepreneurs. Properly aligned with students’ learning needs and business processes, such skills will enhance their absorption capacity of future entrepreneurs and improve the quality of their decisions and their overall performance. More to that, knowing how to translate existing data into visually comprehensive and easy-to-use information can stimulate them to explore new business dimensions.
Data SET has embarked on a journey to produce the Guide on Data Skills Development that will be used to update entrepreneurship trainers about the current state of data skills and skills building strategies. Among its manifold outcomes, Data SET will create a smart data skills training model, train the first generation of Data SET trainers and launch an online Data SET course.
1. Even Entrepreneurs Need Analytics: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomdavenport/2018/04/18/even-entrepreneurs-need-analytics/#487686254ff9
2. Fact Sheets on the European Union: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/63/small-and-medium-sized-enterprises
3. Enhancing the Contributions of SMEs in a Global and Digitalised Economy: https://www.oecd.org/mcm/documents/C-MIN-2017-8-EN.pdf
4. Accelerating the digital transformation of European industry and enterprises: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/content/accelerating-digital-transformation-european-industry-and-enterprises_en
5. For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/technology/06stats.html
6. How data analytics is changing entrepreneurial opportunities?:
Authored by Alina Meloyan. The article was originally published in the UIIN Blog