As adults, we’ve all been around computers long enough to know what the term “digital” means. Also, we have been handling money long enough to understand the nature of an asset. However, put those two terms together in “digital assets” and most people’s eyes begin to wonder. Ask them to define “digital assets” and you’ll probably get a blank stare.
However, whether we know it or not, most of us own a large number of digital assets. More often than not, these digital assets were acquired for a long-forgotten task and now sit idle on our corporate hard drives, CDs, and servers…effectively gathering digital dust. Little do we know that in those dark warehouses of the IT world lies a valuable treasure waiting to be useful again.
Before entering how to reuse these assets, it may be useful to define more clearly the nature of a digital asset. Basically, digital assets are the assets your company has in digital form. How is this obvious to express? Seriously, though, it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Digital assets are actually files and collections of raw data that your company owns and has the legal right to use or sell or lease to a third party. This includes database information, intellectual property, transaction data, multimedia content and any other digital information of value.
Note that I said, “… valid.” Not all pieces of digital “stuff” are classified as assets. In fact, much of what might initially be considered a digital asset is, upon further examination, a digital liability.
So the first step in realigning your digital assets is to separate the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad, the useful from the useless, and the valuable from the worthless. In fact, finding and cataloging potential assets and trashing the rest. Doing so is tedious and mind-numbing, but unless someone has the know-how to effectively catalog your company’s data stores from the start, you’ll have little chance of doing it the hard way. Depending on the size of your company, this can be done in one day by the Office Manager, or it can be a year-long project for several members of your IT staff.
Fortunately, there are many software packages designed to help retrieve, catalog, and access this data. A little online research will yield a variety of products that will fit your digital asset management needs.
As this data is reviewed and cataloged, it’s probably a good idea to keep asking the key question: Does this work for us or someone else? If the answer is yes, save and catalog. Otherwise, throw it away.
After completing this task, you should have a pretty clear idea of the digital assets your company has. The next step is to use it well to strengthen the bottom line. As mentioned before, these goods will be useful in one of three ways: For sale, for rent or for internal use.
Again, review the data you’ve cataloged and classify, sell, rent, or use internally. For those you can sell or rent, such as customer data, research and approach companies that may be interested in your data. If they don’t want to, chances are they’ll meet someone who does. With a little luck and effort, you can turn that old, dusty data into a solid contribution below.
For items of intrinsic value, such as graphics and photo files, your task becomes communication, awareness and ease of access. In other words, you need to know what digital assets your company has, where they can be found, and how to easily retrieve them. There is no easy answer how for that, but it is essential that this happens. Otherwise, your hard-earned assets will once again be withdrawn to the dark vaults of the computer world from whence they came.
This brings us to the final step in repurposing your company’s digital assets: Maintain and Maintain. With an entire library and catalog of assets at hand, it would be ridiculous not to keep adding new assets to the collection as they become available. It is also a good idea to get rid of those assets that have no value to the company. The idea is to keep your asset library clean, relevant and easy to access.
An obvious, but often overlooked, positive characteristic of digital assets and tangible assets is their eternal permanence. If handled properly, the digital photo you catalog today will look no different in this year’s Annual Report than it will 50 years from now hanging on the wall of your company’s moon-based corporate office.
So take the time now to collect, categorize and catalog those assets. Years from now, you and many others will be very glad you did.