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The Definition of Asset

by Dan Robles on July 9, 2015

The definition of Asset is broadly overlooked in discussions about finance and cash flow.  The definition of Asset must be upheld on the accounting sheet or else the “asset” ceases to exist, is classified as an “intangibles” or becomes a liability.

In the prior post, I make the claim that engineers are money. On certain types of projects, such as construction or product development, there is a period of time between expenses and revenue.  During that period of time, the asset does not actually exist.  Instead it is being supported by the engineering that is actualizing the future asset.

All assets are described by two components; quality and quantity. For example; it is insufficient to say that “water” is an asset without also specifying the quantity and the quality of the water – is it 6 oz of drinking water or is it 6 liters of cooling water in your car.  A value cannot be ascribed to an asset without these two pieces of information – and each has a hugely different value proposition.  Likewise, if either of these two bits of information are missing from the definition of the Asset, it ceases to exist on the accounting statement. During construction, maintenance, renovation, or replacement, either of these two information points may be temporarily compromised.  The term for this is Accountability.

In this case we say that the value of the asset is a function of Quantity and Quality:

Asset slide

In order for that to occur, the asset value needs to be projected upon the engineer as a proxy for the asset.  As such, the engineering assurance must also be described in terms of quality and quantity.

Our next lesson comes from insurance 101: in order to manage risk, you first need to know pieces of information:

1. Can you identify the risk exposure

2. If so, what is the probability that risk exposure will manifest

3. If so, what are the consequences of that manifestation

These are the governing equation for the Accountability of engineering assets; definition, transmission, accounting, and resolution of an asset.

Likewise, the best way to an intangible asset or even a liability, is to impact Quality, quantity, and variance.  This is the domain of engineering

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