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Digital technologies are developing at breakneck speed. As a result, companies have more and more data at their disposal. As data coaches Maurice Lammers and Wim Renders are well aware, it is no easy task for small and medium-sized companies to make maximum use of this data. As of this year, companies in the Brainport region can come to them with all their questions and they give advice to entrepreneurs.

Big data, Internet-of-things (IoT), Artifical Intelligence (AI), robotization, Virtual & Augmented Reality (VR/AR). All technologies that you come across everywhere these days. Technologies that companies use, for example, to make their production process more efficient or for predictive maintenance of machinery. “These are technologies that already exist,” says Wim Renders, in addition to data coach, also Cluster Manager of the High Tech Software Cluster at Brainport Industries Campus (BIC), “But some companies haven’t yet figured out what it can do for them.” Renders wants to help those companies.

Renders: “Often someone thinks: ‘I should do something with AI.’ But that might be the end of it. You first have to look at what you need and why should you want to do something like that? What is the value of that change for a company?”

Data maturity

The data coaches are part of the Data Economy Implementation Agenda 2020 – 2023. They have to create more so-called data maturity in companies, as in, the extent to which a company uses data for its business processes and innovation. A number of data coaches are active in Brabant, Renders says. “We are for the Brainport region.” Lamme emphasizes, “Our support is free of charge. We have one interest and that is to help someone on their way.”

“This already starts with putting data into context,” Lamme goes on to say. “Only then does data become information “That’s how facts and figures gain meaning. The value lies in that knowledge. Creating insight, predicting, anticipating. Every sector is in the process of digitalizing, and more and more data is becoming available. You use the information from that data to make better decisions and to improve processes.”

Renders does have one reservation: “It’s not the Holy Grail. You can do all sorts of things with data, but if you have to invest a hundred thousand euros in order to do that and you only end up earning ten thousand after all is said and done, then of course you shouldn’t do it. But if you can earn a million euros a year with an investment of one hundred thousand euros, then it does become interesting.”

Speck on the horizon

That’s why the coaches specifically want to engage with entrepreneurs, Lamme adds. “What are the main drivers? Where does an entrepreneur want to go in the future? Those are the determining factors for how processes are going to look and where you want to make gains.”

He has just come from a company that wants to optimize its machinery as much as possible. “That can be done with an operator at a machine who is very familiar with it. But what if there’s someone standing there who’s not as familiar with how to operate the machine? How are you going to help that person? Of course, you can think about a fully automatic machine, but that involves a lot of work. That’s a speck on the horizon. You also have to look at what you can do right now to work more efficiently.”

After the first conversation, the data coach and the entrepreneur decide what is needed for the next step. That step may be guidance in the form of more coaching in the use of data if there is not much digitalization happening within the company yet. Or it could be a more in-depth look at the data the entrepreneur already has at his or her disposal. “Then we look for an expert from our network who can work with us on this. An entrepreneur will then also be reimbursed for a day for this.”

For more information about data coaches.

Read how Brainport keeps looking for ways to bring knowledge, capital and people together.


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