Yep - bringing up an oldie, but still o so true.
Financial assets: A single Euro can only be spend once.....
Human captial: They can just walk out of the door and leave or be hunted by your competitor
Not so with your data; It is uniquely yours, closely connected to your business language, full of nuance, in the proper context and the ability to procreate new data. Every organization can use it's data differently to create it's own niche. When data is used by anyone in your organization, it will not be consumed and it will not expire (a patent will). There is simply no other asset that anyone can think one that owns these capabilities.
To make the case even stronger; the movement of data in your organization is your lifeblood. Any company will simply seize to exist if this data is of bad quality. Orders will not get through, customers credit information can not be seen and invoices can not be send.
Another fascinating attribute of data is that it defines the other assets; financial data, property data, employee data. Badly managed data will jeopardize the management of the other assets big time. So, it's kind of a 'super', ultimate asset.
Nicholas Carr wrote in 2003 in the Harvard Business Review 'IT doesn't matter'. Systems, infrastructure, services, hardware, software, ERP...whatever...they will and probably are already commodities. They are not a differentiating factor in competitive advantage, sustainability or reliability. Data is however always unique, competitors can not get hold of it (well....unless you got a security problem) and if they got it, it will probably be hard to use, since data is often very closely linked to the organizational lingua franca.
Data must be nurtured, managed aggressively and - most of all- must be enabled to be exploited to the max in order to get a good return.It is by far the ultimate proprietary asset.
I believe that in business nowadays huge amounts of money are spend on very sophisticated technology, financial controls and process management. The marginal returns from ever increasing investments into these developments will be small. Investments in data are quite the opposite. The opportunities are limitless. And, more importantly, any investment you make is proprietary to your organization. This is the true definition of competitive advantage.