“You can't manage what you don't measure”: this statement by Douglas Laney, an analyst at technology research and consulting firm Gartner expresses a more and more frequent issue for companies that run big businesses collecting and selling data but don't know exactly how to estimate these intangible assets.
As Wall Street Journal reports
Corporate holdings of data and other “intangible assets,” such as patents, trademarks and copyrights, could be worth more than $8 trillion, according to Leonard Nakamura, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. That’s roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of Germany, France and Italy combined.
But, as opposed to machinery or cash, there aren't common rules yet to record them. The topic concerns not only tech companies like Google, Facebook or Apple, but for instance supermarket chains which collect data about customers' habits and sell it to multinationals interested in tailoring their own products and marketing.
Until now the Financial Accounting Standards Board, an US organization which establishes and improves accounting principles, has failed its attempts to find shared criteria useful to define how big data is worth. Although some experts claim that investors don’t need to know the specific value of intangible assets, but that it is more important to understand other factors like how companies use data to make money, it seems that accountants find hard to walk at the same rate of new forms of properties.