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I have seen a number of Data Management approaches that identify data as being an asset. Recently, I have come to think that data is also a resource, as it can be exploited in many ways.

How do you prefer to categorise your data? Do you prefer to see it an asset or a resource.. or both?

If you value your data as an asset, how do you measure it's value so you can maximise that value? 

If you view your data as a resource, how do you ensure it is sustainably managed?

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You could probably think of "asset" and "resource" as two sides of the same coin, since assets only have value when put to use.

It is the concept of "value" that's the key here. If we accept the premise that an "asset" is something persistent and with enduring value, then if the data directly supports delivery of business value as an input to or output of a business process, then we'd consider it to be an asset (e.g. the list of your customers, the money transfer transactions in and out of a bank account, the schedule of outbound sales calls to be made my the marketing team). If the data set doesn't directly support the business process or link to generation of business value, then it's not an asset, it's a resource (e.g. database indexes, audit logs etc. That's not to say that these things aren't needed! They're just transient and disposable, and therefore don't fit our definition of "asset").

So, without a clear understanding of the context(s) for data/information, the use that's going to be made of it, and the outcomes that it supports, then there is no linkage to generating value. Similarly, without an understanding of usage, then the concept of "data quality" is meaningless - data only has quality as a function of its use.

Following this approach, the value of your data is directly linked to the importance of the business process(es) that it supports - the more important the process, the more valuable the data. It then becomes less important to monetise the data itself (which is often pretty difficult, anyway).

More info on this topic in my blog post from June last year:  http://informationaction.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/concept-of-informa...

Cheers

ADD

I cringe at calling data an asset, but that has some momentum. I prefer resource for two reasons. The first is that asset implies value and there are times data has no value. And second, assets can be quantified on balance sheets, but data in it's usual forms is not listed.

In theory data isn't real. It's an abstraction of something that is. Whatever is real is the asset and the data is a resource supporting it.

Ben

By the way, one of the academic papers that I discovered when I was researching my blog series was Measuring The Value Of Information: An Asset Valuation Approach by Daniel Moody and Peter Walsh.  Here is an excerpt of the 17-page paper:

Is Information an Asset?

Information is commonly referred to in the academic and popular literature as an “asset”. But is it really? The essential characteristics of an asset are:

  1. Has service potential or future economic benefits: something is only an asset from an accounting viewpoint if it is expected to provide future services or economic benefits. The benefits may arise from either the use or sale of the assets. Information satisfies this requirement, because it provides the capability to deliver services and to make effective decisions.
  2. Is controlled by the organisation: “control” in this sense means the capacity of the organisation to benefit from the asset and to deny or regulate the access of others to that benefit. Information also satisfies this requirement - if an organisation has information, it alone has access to it unless it sells or gives access to another party.
  3. Is the result of past transactions: this means that control over the asset has already been obtained as a result of past transactions such as purchases, internal development or discovery. Information also satisfies this requirement. Information is usually collected as the by-product of transactions which have occurred (internal development), or may be the result of a purchase (e.g. a proprietary mailing database) or discovery (e.g. through analysis of data).

Information satisfies the definition of an asset much better than employees or customers, which are also commonly referred to in the literature as assets. Employees and customers result in service potential and future economic benefits, but are not owned by the company - if employees were to resign or customers to change suppliers, the company would lose the benefits without compensation. Information is a non-physical or intangible asset. However it is the service potential and economic benefits, not the physical form of an object, which is relevant in assessing whether an asset exists.

John

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