Despite its potential, few managers have begun even to scratch the surface of information about intangibles and the opportunity it offers.
Many managers have anticipated the time when they could track information about their intangible assets as easily as they monitor cash flow and market share. They have looked forward to being able to track customer satisfaction, innovation, and employee skill levels with real-time data. Thanks to advances in information technology, this day is almost here. Yet the author argues that few managers have begun even to scratch the surface in seizing the opportunities that this information offers. Managers will need to determine which parts of the business they want to understand; what information will lead to an answer; and how well the information and technology (including text and data mining) can answer their questions. Currently, companies extract information about intangibles for fairly narrow applications (for example, to analyze data about customer preferences in order to improve the profitability of certain customer segments). But managers looking to derive maximum value will want to use this information more robustly. They should consider a set of factors: the nature of the questions they want to answer; the quality of the data available; the technology they need to use; and the extent to which major process changes will impact the organization.