We've had the 'what is an asset' debate a few times in Gary Hinson's ISO27001 forum on Googlegroups, but I'd like to re-iterate that an asset is not necessarily (or even) a material object such as a computer, laptop, router or the like.
'Some day, on the corporate balance sheet, there will be an
entry which reads, "Information"; for in most cases the information
is more valuable than the hardware which processes it.'
- Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, USN Ret.
The problem is that we are used to paying for material goods such as our own computers, laptops, routers, etc. So in a corporate setting the money-scriveners (aka accountants) see that money has been spent on material goods and they are "assets on the books".
It is only recently that people have begun patenting "algorithms" and "business processes" and as such identifying them as valuable assets in their own right.
Now however the money-scriveners figure it from the corporate point of view, from that of the ISMS the process matter more. I'll explain with analogy. People usually roll their eyes at my automobile analogies, even though I say most people "get" cars. Well perhaps, but many people just drive them and don't see the innards. So I'll do an analogy based around something that affect EVERYONE, even pedestrians and those that
have never been in a car: FOOD
Here I am cooking dinner or a friend. The recipe calls for two tablespoons of Olive Oil. Well actually Canola oil or some other vegetable oil (not least of all plants that its illegal to grow in the USA) will do just nicely. And I have various implements for measuring, not just a couple of sets of gradated "spoons" but also a small jug and even a graduated pipette. There is rice, but it doesn't say what kind;
I'm using long-grain white rice, but it works fine with other kids.
Now that rice and the oil and all the other ingredients are things I paid money for at the market. Some were bought specifically for this
meal and some were 'staples' I keep. Then there are the pans and the plates and the cutlery.
But at the end of the meal none of those are actually assets. I could have used a different pan and utensils and plates if I had gone to my
friend's place and cooked there. On top of that the food that I paid for is gone - consumed. So none of these are critical assets.
What is the asset?
My friend identifies it after the meal.
"That was good. Can I have the recipe?"
All those pots and pans and stuff from the grocery store are no use without a recipe.
It is the receipe that gives meaning and direction and purpose.
NO! That recipe has been in the family for many generations. It is a valuable asset.
You don't think recipes are assets? The why do people pay for"Cookbooks" full of recipes? Did you know that Cookbooks are the largest selling line of books? As a group the outsell religious books, not just the Bible and Koran but all the commentaries and religious scholarship put together.
The food? Well that may be an asset from the point of view of the grocery store owner, but from my point of view its a consumable, just like printer ink and paper.
The pot and pans and plates and food are all replaceable, and are not specifically critical to the production of the meal. They can be substituted, and in the case of the clearly consumable food they will be! But the recipe, that is the real asset. That persists.
- North Korea seizes South's assets (bbc.co.uk)
- Asset-Based Financing Basics (bjconquest.com)
- DOJ's Expanding Power to Seize Assets Sparks Concerns (blogs.wsj.com)