As adults, we’ve all been around computers long enough to know what the term “digital” means. We’ve also been handling money for enough time to comprehend the nature of an asset. Yet put those two terms together into “digital assets” 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 are in possession of myriad digital assets. In most cases, those digital assets were acquired for some long-forgotten task and now sit dormant on the hard-drives, CD’s and servers of our companies… effectively collecting digital dust. Little do we know that in those dark warehouses of the computer world sits a treasure trove of value just waiting to be made useful once more.
Before we get into the how of repurposing those assets, it may be worthwhile to more clearly define the nature of a digital asset. In essence, digital assets are assets your company has in a digital form. How’s that for stating the obvious? Seriously, though, it need not be any more complicated than that. In their truest form, digital assets are files and collections of raw data that your company possesses, and for which it holds the legal right to use internally or to sell or rent to a third party. This includes database information, intellectual property, transactional data, multimedia content, and any other digital information of value.
Notice I said, “… of value.” Not all hunks of digital “stuff” qualify as assets. As a matter of fact, much 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 valueless. In effect, finding and cataloging the potential assets and trashing the rest. Doing this is nothing less than arduous and mind-numbing, but unless somebody had the wisdom to effectively catalogue your company’s data stores from the start, you’ll have little choice but to do it the hard way. Depending on the size of your company, this could be accomplished in a day by the Office Manger or be a year-long project for several members of your I.T. staff.
Thankfully, there are scores of software packages designed to assist you in retrieving, cataloging and accessing this data. A little online research will yield a variety of products that will suit just about any digital asset management need.
As this data is reviewed and catalogued, it’s probably wise to keep asking this one key question: Is this of any potential value to us or anybody else? If the answer is yes, keep it and catalogue it. Otherwise, dump it.
Once this task is complete, you should have a fairly clear idea of what digital assets your company holds. The next step is to put them to good use in strengthening the bottom line. As mentioned earlier, these assets will be useful in one of three ways: To sell, to rent or to use internally.
Once again, review the data you’ve cataloged and categorize it by sell, rent or use internally. For those you can sell or rent, like customer data, research and approach companies who may have an interest in your data. If they don’t want it, there’s a good chance they’ll know somebody who does. With a little luck, and a little effort, you could potentially turn that old, dusty data into a strong bottom-line contribution.
For those items that have internal value, like graphic and photo files, your task becomes one of communication, awareness and ease of access. In other words, you need to make the people in your company aware of what digital assets exist, where they can be found and how to easily retrieve them. There is no easy answer for how to do this, but it’s essential that it happens. Otherwise, you’re hard-won assets will once again retreat to 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: Upkeep and maintenance. Now that you have a comprehensive library and catalogue of the assets you have on hand, it would be ludicrous to not continue adding new assets to the collection as they become available. Investments It would also be wise to cull those assets that no longer possess value to the company. The idea is to keep your asset library clean, relevant and easy to access.
The obvious, yet often overlooked positive attribute of digital assets vs. tangible assets is their timeless durability. If handled properly, the digital photo you catalogue today will look no different on this year’s Annual Report than it will hanging on the wall of your company’s lunar-based corporate office 50 years from now.
So take the time now to collect, categorize and catalogue those assets today. Years from now, you and many others will be very glad you did.