A data asset is anything that is made up of data. It’s the resting place for data at-rest (as opposed to “in-transit”). A database, Excel spreadsheet, log file, Word document, or a web page can all be data assets. A sensor that sends pressure readings to a monitoring system every minute and a key-card reader that records the comings and goings of employees are not data assets—they are data sources.
Data asset are the next step. The raw data created by these sources must be organized in a way that can be manipulated, combined, analyzed, and otherwise used to monitor the business and make tactical and strategic decisions.
A data asset can also include a means to access the data from an application. For example:
– a tool that queries a database to retrieve a user’s information
– a site that retrieves data specific to certain parameters entered
Note, a data asset isn’t solely created by people; systems and applications can create them, too.
Depending on the design and organization, a data asset may be more or less useful or easy to work with. The greater the level of structure and organization of a data asset, the easier it is to extract useful information.
A well-designed relational database, for instance, is highly structured, and many mature tools (such as structured query language, or SQL) are available to manage these data assets, manipulate them, and extract valuable information from them. Structured data also lends itself well to data warehousing.
By contrast, a document created by word processing software may contain important data, but it is typically unstructured text, and thus specialized tools and techniques are required to get any value from it. Only recently have data scientists, often using technologies such as artificial intelligence, been able to develop reliable tools for analyzing unstructured text.
Regardless of the type of data within it, any data asset that a business relies on for monitoring and decision-making must have someone responsible for it, making sure it continues to provide high-quality information that is useful to the organization. That means data asset management is an important task in any enterprise.