The Survey Says…Managing Intangible Assets Is An Important Management Issue!

Michael D. Moberly   June 5, 2009

A few years ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a survey (commissioned by Accenture) in which ‘senior executives from companies around the world were asked to share their views on the management of strategic assets, both tangible and intangible’. 

Not surprisingly, 94 of the 120 respondents said that ‘managing intangible assets and/or intellectual capital is an important management issue’.  Despite that forward looking testament, a significant majority of the respondents said they ‘did not have a robust system in place to measure the performance of intangible assets’.  Interestingly though, nearly half of the respondents readily acknowledged that ‘the stock market rewards companies that invest in intangible assets’.

Conceivably, a starting point to remedy this would be to bring more ‘business and economic clarity’ to intangibles for not only the executives, but, management teams, and boards as well to recognize (a.) precisely what intangible assets are, (b.) how to unravel and approximate their value, (c.) the various roles – contributions intangibles make to a company’s value, sustainability, and sources of revenue, and (d.) strategies to maximize and extract value.

Two additional, and perhaps larger points are worthy of making.  The first is, there’s an inference embedded in surveys like this that intangible assets are the province of large, multi-national corporations.  There’s nothing further from the truth.  The reality is, intangible assets are literally embedded in most every company, ranging from start-ups and spin-off’s to SME’s (small, medium enterprises) as well as mature and maturing firms.  Intangible assets have little, if virtually nothing to do with a company’s size.  It’s truly not a case of ‘size counts’!  Rather, it’s a matter of management teams (a.) being intellectually – operationally clear on what intangible assets are, and (b.) actually recognizing what intangible assets their company possesses, produces, and/or has acquired. 

Second, most issues today related to and/or affecting a company’s intangible assets have moved from being mere voluntary (I’ll do it if I have time) actions, to truly constituting fiduciary responsibilities that warrant consistent stewardship, oversight, and management!


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