Can Execs Get a Handle on Intangible Assets?

Measuring them may provide an opportunity to create additional value.
Stephen TaubFebruary 2, 2004

A majority of senior executives believe that managing their intangible assets is an important issue, yet few have a viable process for measuring the performance of those assets, according to a new survey released by Accenture and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Fully 94 percent of the 120 C-suite executives who were surveyed said that managing intangible assets and intellectual capital is an important management issue. How important? Half of them rank it among the three most important issues, including 13 percent who singled it out as the most important.

Successfully managing intangible assets even translates into a better performing stock price, maintain survey respondents; 49 percent said they consider intangibles to be the primary source of long-term shareholder wealth creation for their companies, and 48 percent believe that the stock market rewards companies that invest in intangible assets.

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Given these responses, it’s almost shocking to learn that 95 percent of the executives said they do not have a robust system in place to measure the performance of intangible assets, and fully a third said they don’t have any system at all.

“While businesses used to generate future growth through tangible assets like buildings and equipment, in today’s services-based economy more businesses generate future value based on intangible assets,” said John Ballow, a partner in Accenture’s Strategy and Business Architecture practice. “Yet our survey results show that while there’s been a big shift toward intangible assets, most companies primarily measure only tangible assets. By implementing systems to measure intangibles, there’s a great opportunity for leading companies to enhance their business performance and create additional value.”