Data is the new oil. But the peculiarity with data is that by itself, it’s not worth anything. To create value, companies need to have not only the data, but the skills and the “data mindset“. And many large companies in traditional sectors typically have huge amounts of data, but lack the skills and the mindset. To extract value from these data large traditional companies have to collaborate with small data analytics companies that are able to transform data into information and knowledge. This is why BASF worked together with Yukon Digital (a data analytics SME) in order to deliver predictive maintenance for their chemical industrial plants.

But we don’ have to think of SMEs as mainly data analytics companies: in their vast majority, they are traditional businesses which typically lack the skills, and mindset, and often the data themselves. Yet even in this case, they can benefit from big data solutions by collaborating and sharing data with other data-driven companies. What often happens, in this case, is that SMEs can partner with companies that actually gather the data through sensors.

For instance, small transport companies can optimize their fleet management by installing devices in their trucks, such as those provided by . The supplier takes care of providing the devices, gathering the data and analyzing them. Shop owners can use “beacon apps” to understand how customer move and interact in the shop. Farmers use sensor-equipped tractors that include analytics services.

Yet, despite these opportunities, both large and small companies are typically reluctant to share their data. Even for non-personal data, which do not have privacy implications, it is not clear who owns and control it, and there is limited transparency over what different companies can do with it. SMEs often lack the skills not only to make the best use of their data, but to understand the terms and conditions that govern data-driven services.

This is why the European initiative on the Free Flow of Data is so important. Data sharing across company and country borders brings benefits to SMEs – whether they are big data startups or traditional business. But there is a need to ensure trust and the right incentives for companies to share data. It is not about establishing rigid rules about who owns the data – but about creating the conditions for the widest reuse of data.

Because, after all…

The best thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else