Nina Evans, of University of South Australia, presented an interesting paper on the importance of information as an asset to business. In so doing, she commented on the difficulties that managers often have in justifying the effective management of information assets.
Information assets are intangible resources used in business including all tacit and explicit knowledge and information that is generated by, held by and used by the business. Information assets can be stored in a plethora of forms including in a person's mind; in hard or electronic format; and, on computers or in libraries. They are one of just four classes of asset (and therefore, levers) that managers have available to drive business performance (physical assets, information assets, human assets (people) and financial assets).
Evans suggested that if information assets are managed well, then operating costs can be significantly reduced, and business credibility can be increased. However, many managers treat information assets as being within the domain of the information technology department of businesses, and technical people often like to 'control' access. Further, while executive managers and boards often ask about the status of the other asset classes, they rarely enquire about the status of the information assets of the business. She went on to suggest that several barriers exist:
Evans closed by sharing the results of some preliminary quantitative analysis work. She said that companies that manage their information assets well stand to gain at least $20,000 per employee per year in direct operating benefit. This means that a 1000-person company can expect to add at least $20,000,000 per annum to its bottom line, if the information assets are managed well. If this is correct, this is huge! Nina Evans and I had a preliminary conversation after her talk. It would appear that a collaborative project, to combine Evan's work with my board performance research, may well generate some useful guidance for boards and executives in the future. Watch this space!
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.