After people, data is our biggest asset

What is an asset? Webster defines an asset as “a single item of ownership having exchange value or convertible to cash.”

According to the institute of CPA’s – “Any economic resources (tangible/intangible) that can be owned or produce value, assets have positive economic value”.

Our industry has always used the term “asset” for more quantifiable items – it is typical of our industry DNA as engineers and finance professionals to always look to the more tangible of our resources and assets. Items that we can:

  • Sell
  • Spend
  • Lend
  • Trade
  • Share
  • Apply

I also believe information meets the definition of an asset and with the right tools and approach, is something that can be used to generate value.

It seems others agree as the term ‘Infonomics’ is gaining wider traction and broader discussion. The recent speight of programs being introduced at universities around data sciences is a good indication on where trends in the market are heading and the value information will have as we move our strategies to the year 2020.

Banks and insurers have also begun viewing data as an asset and started to lend and insure data for organizations. A great example on the value information might hold is the simple market value of Facebook as company which valued at over $300 billion against a book value of approximately $7 billion. As a company whose asset is data and their ability to leverage it, this figure represents the investing public’s present value expectations of Facebook’s ability to monetise its data (USA Today, 2015).

As this advances further, the potential for our industry is monumentous. Being able to borrow based on the information and the quality of that information will definitely change the way the consulting and services industry has operated. As information becomes more quantifiable, I see clients being able to rank and assess consultants on a more level playing field. Organisations’ ability to compete based on the information asset will also come into play here – the more mature the asset and ability to reuse it, the easier it will be for them to deliver a quality result more efficiently.

As an organisation we all go through the different stages of data integrity with the ultimate goal of having an asset of value. The chart below highlights the transition most organisations will go through when it comes to data maturity and creating that asset we have been discussing.

Since Ausenco moved to a systems backbone, like many organizations, the amount of data we have created for certain particular “siloed” functions has been great. They have all played an important part in the success and keeping us competitive.

However, it is now time to build and harness this information further. Current data warehousing technologies and analytics platforms have made the “single source of truth” dream a reality and the more we work with that goal in mind the more prepared we will be for the future. The value we are able to extract from having all the information accessible in a single readable platform will result in a quantifiable, tangible asset that will soon be an item on our balance sheets and result in a great investment mechanism. Companies will be able to be intrinsically measured against this and there will be a crop of specialists to emerge from this that can quickly ascertain an organisations worth based on the quality of their data. Since Ausenco moved to a systems backbone, like many organisations, the amount of data we have created for certain particular “siloed” functions has been great. They have all played an important part in the success and keeping us competitive.

We are already taking the data analysis and information management to the next level in the industry and beginning to leverage off our earlier investments in our systems, enhancing what we currently extract and report on. Our financial information already provides in depth reporting and information used towards business analytics – we are now looking at doing something similar with our engineering and design information with the aim of developing a more predictive data model.

If you consider a scenario in which you could sit in a meeting room and be able to easily obtain a drawing for a new project based on a spread of historic projects, the efficiencies gained from this are vast and further build the case of information being one of our biggest assets. Another major benefit of having quality information available when required (ensuring it is accessible on any device) is to assist key personnel in making the right decisions at any given moment of time.

Harvard Business School recently published a study that suggested that most organizations barely scratch the surface of the true power of the information they posses. At Ausenco, we are part of the small percentage of organisations that believe in the true power of the information we have and are making moves to leverage and build this asset resource even further for the benefit of our clients.

Ausenco is currently ahead of the game when it comes to data and repurposing it, however, as with most companies, we have yet to harness the full potential of the information we have. Being cognizant of the power of information, we are reinvigorating our investment in this field and are pointing our resources in this direction to make sure we are well prepared for the new future of “information as an asset”. The further we mature in the stages of information management the more we are able to deliver on our promise of better project efficiencies.

I would like to leave you with a quote I recently read from Doug Laney (Deloitte analytics institute) – “Idle information is an expense, leveraged information is an asset”.

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