As adults, we’ve all been around computers long enough to know what the term “digital” means. Also, we spend enough time handling money to understand the nature of assets. Put those two terms together under “digital assets,” though, and most people’s eyes start to glaze over. Ask them to define “digital assets” and you’ll most likely get a blank stare.
Yet, whether we know it or not, most of us own countless digital assets. In most cases, those digital assets were acquired for some long-forgotten task and now sit idle on our companies’ hard drives, CDs, and servers… effectively gathering digital dust. Little do we know that in those dark warehouses of the computer world there is a treasure trove of value just waiting to be useful once more.
Before we go into the how repurposing those assets, it may be worth defining more clearly the nature of the digital asset. Basically, a digital asset is an asset that your company has in digital form. How’s that for stating the obvious? Seriously, though, it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. In their true form, digital assets are files and collections of raw data that your company owns, that it has the legal right to use internally or to sell or lease to a third party. This includes database information, intellectual property, transaction data, multimedia content and any other digital information of value.
Notice I said, “… of value.” Not all pieces of digital “stuff” qualify as property. In fact, most of what may initially be considered a digital asset is, upon further inspection, actually a digital liability.
So the first step in repurposing your digital assets is the unenviable task of separating the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad, the useful from the useless, and the valuable from the worthless. In effect, finding and cataloging potential assets and destroying the rest. Doing this is nothing short of laborious and mind-numbing, but unless someone has had the wisdom to effectively catalog your company’s data warehouses from the start, you’ll have no choice but to do it the hard way. Depending on the size of your company, this could be accomplished in a day by an Office Manger, or it could be a year-long project for several members of your IT staff.
Fortunately, there are plenty of software packages designed to help you find, catalog, and access this data. A little online research will yield a range of products to suit almost any digital asset management need.
As this data is reviewed and cataloged, it is probably wise to keep asking one key question: Does this have potential value for us or anyone else? If the answer is yes, save and catalog it. Otherwise, throw it away.
Once this task is complete, you should have a pretty clear idea of what digital assets your company owns. The next step is to put them to good use in boosting your results. As mentioned earlier, this asset will be useful in one of three ways: for sale, rental, or internal use.
Again, review the data you’ve cataloged and categorize it by sale, rental, or internal use. 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 it, there’s a good chance they’ll know someone who does. With a little luck and a little effort, you could potentially turn that old, dusty data into a powerful contribution.
For those items that have intrinsic value, such as graphics and photo files, your task becomes communication, awareness and ease of access. In other words, you need to educate people in your company about what digital assets exist, where they can be found, and how to easily access them. There is no easy answer how to do it, but it is important that it happens. Otherwise, your hard-earned assets will retreat back into the dark warehouses of the computer world from whence they came.
This brings us to the final key step in repurposing your company’s digital assets: maintenance and upkeep. Now that you have a comprehensive library and catalog of assets at hand, it would be ridiculous not to continue adding new assets to the collection as they become available. It would also be wise to dispose of those assets that no longer have value to the company. The idea is to keep your asset library clean, relevant and easily accessible.
An obvious but often overlooked positive attribute of digital assets over physical assets is their timeless permanence. If handled properly, the digital photo you’re cataloging today will look no different in this year’s annual report than it will hanging on the wall of your company’s corporate office on the moon 50 years from now.
So take the time now to collect, categorize and catalog those assets today. Years from now, you and many others will be very glad you did.