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Small and medium-sized enterprises represent the backbone of the world economy: 90% of all companies (in Italy 92% of active ones) and 70% of the planet’s GDP, they are the engine of the supply chain, but they also favor inclusion and innovation. The World Economic Forum underlines this in the research “Data Unleashed. Empowering Small and Medium Enterprises for Innovation and Success” attended by 111 people from 21 sectors and 42 countries, many in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The DAMA Italy chapter contributed to the paper, which will meet on 1 December in Bologna for the “Data and Artificial Intelligence” convention and will coordinate, in parallel, the EMEA Data Conference (Europe, Middle East and Africa) with 200 experts arriving in the capital Emilian from the 30 countries in the area. On the agenda are dozens of case studies and best practices, from banks to energy to the role of data in improving cities and the world, with a lot of space dedicated to AI, how to govern it and prepare the data so that artificial intelligence systems and machine learning are working properly.
The objective of the WEF is to evaluate the data readiness of SMEs, i.e. to what extent companies (under 250 employees) are capable of collecting data, managing it with appropriate processes and analyzing it. What are the main critical issues for entrepreneurs and their collaborators? The document identifies five: the lack of data policies and clarity on roles and responsibilities (governance); the obstacles to “extracting” value from data; the limitations of the IT infrastructure; barriers to access global markets and poor monitoring of sustainability data. Regardless of size or sector, for example, for 74% of those interviewed, the security and protection of company data is a “challenging” issue. 63% say they do not have a chief privacy officer (CPO), 60% do not have a chief data officer (CDO) and the same percentage lacks a top security manager (chief information security officer – CISO). The reasons: budget constraints and skill shortages, or these tasks are assigned to existing roles (in SMEs there is a tendency to cover more than one).
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To “unlock the potential” of their data, the WEF suggests small and medium-sized businesses follow an 8-point framework for prioritizing. We start with an assessment to optimize processes and “model” the data. A “data governance” safeguard is created that ensures security, privacy and correct risk management. Then the choice of an IT service provider that guarantees compliance with data governance protocols. Furthermore, company leadership must commit to ensuring the right resources and increasing the skills of collaborators. But to improve “data capabilities” (in short: what we know how to do with data) we also need collaboration between the public and private sectors and the ability to regularly review internal skills to adapt to both business trends and requests from institutions, regulators and stakeholders, inside and outside the company.
*president of DAMA Italy and EMEA coordinator