We are often reminded to treat data as an asset, in fact this is something I do quite regularly with my work frequently covering both data and asset management. Thinking of data as an asset helps people to think about data having value and needing to be cared for. This then leads to the question:

What type of asset is data?

Is data a big solid asset like the Hoover Dam?



In which case it would be something extremely resilient, that will probably be around for an eternity and will probably take a fair amount of abuse/poor management before it starts to degrade. Does this sound like data? Probably not….

So, is data something more fragile like a sandcastle?



By their nature, sandcastles are composed of millions of individual grains of sand, they may be eroded by wind, rain and the sea, people may accidentally tread on them or may take sand for their own sandcastle.

Over time, people may adapt or add to the sand castle, maybe adding a bit of seaweed and a few shells, dig a moat etc.

To keep a sandcastle looking the way you intended it, requires regular care and attention and probably cannot be left alone for any length of time. The sand grains themselves will not disappear, but will ultimately just become part of the beach again.

This sounds a lot more like data.

Data is a ‘fragile’ asset that is composed of many small items, easily degrades over time, may be adapted by users without authorisation, may be damaged/ corrupted by bulk data actions and needs constant care and attention.

Something to think about….

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One thought on “If data is an asset, what type of asset is it?

  • 2nd July 2015 at 04:22

    Good questions, Julian.

    I would argue the data does not degrade over time. Quite the reverse; it has what I call inverse entropy. Unlike other systems, it is only the input of external energy that degrades data. If it is left as first captured it will endure forever.

    I would also argue against the myth of data as an asset. Data has actually no value or use to an enterprise unless it can be turned into into information. It is information is the real asset that the enterprise needs.

    It is actually information that is the fragile asset as its quality, its fitness for purpose, can degrade overtime – even though the underlying data from which it is composed remains unchanged.

    The data world has got the ‘data story’ so wrong as it fails to realise that digital data is merely a storage mechanism for the information asset. It has no value other than that of the information it represents.


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