Companies are always looking at ways to improve the value and quality of their assets. Whether it is a capital reinvestment in hardware, upgrading disk storage systems, purchasing new database systems or applicationware, upgrading software packages, and particularly employee training, a large amount of money is invested in ensuring the high value of corporate assets. Yet, there is one corporate asset that is not only allowed to gradually degenerate but, as a rule, is almost completely ignored: information.

Walk into any CEO's office and ask, "How many customers does your company have?" and see how many can give the right answer. The focus on infrastructure (hardware, databases, delivery, etc.) instead of content (business-driven data modeling, information integration, business intelligence, information compliance, data quality) hampers the business side from being able to exploit an organization's information asset. The information asset is a huge source of hidden advantage, and the key to exposing this hidden advantage lies in properly managing and exploiting the value of data. This value of data can be viewed as having two opposing parts: a positive component that accounts for recognizing benefit and a negative component that accounts for increased costs or lost opportunities.

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