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June 09, 2016

What is an asset?

Traditionally, an asset is defined as property owned by a company or individual that has value. There used to be a more straightforward understanding of what items fit under that definition, but nowadays it seems it’s becoming more dependent on the role you play within your organization and what your organization is trying to accomplish.

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For instance, looking from an accounting perspective, the management of assets would typically revolve around the value the assets represent on the balance sheet.

However, from the point of view of a facilities manager, the type of items that fit under the “asset” category begins to expand beyond the balance sheet to include all the physical items or things (big or small) that must be maintained or managed.

For example, I had a conversation with a facility manager for a bank that really expanded my view. When you think about a bank, you think about the traditional assets that need to be maintained in order for them to provide their service, such as their real estate and machinery. But shortly into my conversation with this facility manager, it became clear that he had more to manage that went well beyond traditional assets and the role of space planning. He began speaking about the community events that his bank supports and participates in, and how he was responsible for the company van, the tents, and the board games. He said, in fact, the board games and the time it takes to constantly track them down, were the things that gave him the most headaches as a facility manager.

Clearly, when you think about something that holds value for a bank, a board game isn’t going to be at the top of the list. But for this facility manager, it was part of his responsibilities. It was something that was taking up his time and energy and affecting how he was managing his day-to-day work. In a traditional sense, the ROI of a board game wasn’t liquid and it doesn’t hold much value on the balance sheet, but it is an asset that must be managed that contributes to creating a positive brand awareness for the bank.

So all of a sudden, I began thinking about assets in a different way. When you ask, “What is important?” you begin to see more clearly the different kinds of assets that need to be managed based on industry, role, and company.

“Thing” Management
New research points to this expanding list of “things” that now fall under the ‘asset’ category. According to Gartner research titled, “Top 10 IoT technologies for 2017 and 2018,” long-lived “things” that were once regarded as nontrivial have started to require management and monitoring. Gartner states “this includes device monitoring, for example, are devices still alive, are they connected, and what is their battery status?”

Advances in new devices in the workplace like sensors that can help measure the occupancy rate of a workspace or meeting room fall under this category. As my colleague pointed out, even rat traps with their technological advances fall under this category.

Organizing your junk drawer of assets
The industry is catching on that even these untraditional “things” are becoming drivers of competition, and it’s exciting to see companies acknowledge that these types of assets require time, effort, and money to manage and maintain as well.

Just like your junk drawer at home, organizations are still trying to figure out the best way to organize these new categories and additions. Acknowledging their importance is freeing us to be more creative and efficient in how we manage the workspace and the people and belongings inside, even for something as simple as a board game.

Antonia Eshbaugh
Former Sales Manager Planon North America