Asset management refers to a systematic approach to the governance and realization of value from the things that a group or entity is responsible for, over their whole life cycles. It may apply both to tangible assets (physical objects such as buildings or equipment) and to intangible assets (such as human capital, intellectual property, goodwill or financial assets). Asset management is a systematic process of developing, operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of assets in the most cost-effective manner (including all costs, risks and performance attributes).
The term is commonly used in the financial sector to describe people and companies who manage investments on behalf of others. Those include, for example, investment managers that manage the assets of a pension fund.
It is also increasingly used in both the business world and public infrastructure sectors to ensure a coordinated approach to the optimization of costs, risks, service/performance and sustainability.
The International Standard, ISO 55000, provides an introduction and requirements specification for a management system for asset management.
The most common usage of the term "asset manager" refers to investment management, the sector of the financial services industry that manages investment funds and segregated client accounts. Asset management is part of a financial company that employs experts who manage money and handle the investments of clients. This is done either actively or passively.
Infrastructure asset management is the combination of management, financial, economic, engineering, and other practices applied to physical assets with the objective of providing the best value level of service for the costs involved. It includes the management of the entire life cycle--including design, construction, commissioning, operating, maintaining, repairing, modifying, replacing and decommissioning/disposal--of physical and infrastructure assets. Operation and maintenance of assets in a constrained budget environment require a prioritization scheme. As a way of illustration, the recent development of renewable energy has seen the rise of effective asset managers involved in the management of solar systems (solar park, rooftops, and windmills). These teams often collaborate with financial asset managers in order to offer turnkey solutions to investors. Infrastructure asset management became very important in most of the developed countries in the 21st century, since their infrastructure network was almost completed in the 20th century and they have to manage to operate and maintain them cost-effectively. Software asset management is one kind of infrastructure asset management.
The International Organization for Standardization published its management system standard for asset management in 2014. The ISO 55000 series provides terminology, requirements, and guidance for implementing, maintaining and improving an effective asset management system.
Enterprise asset management (EAM) systems are asset information systems that support the management of an organization's assets. An EAM includes an asset registry (inventory of assets and their attributes) combined with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and other modules (such as inventory or materials management). Assets that are geographically distributed, interconnected or networked, are often also represented through the use of geographic information systems (GIS).
GIS-centric asset registry standardizes data and improves interoperability, providing users the capability to reuse, coordinate, and share information in an efficient and effective manner. A GIS platform combined with information of both the "hard" and "soft" assets helps to remove the traditional silos of departmental functions. While the hard assets are the typical physical assets or infrastructure assets, the soft assets might include permits, licenses, brands, patents, right-of-ways, and other entitlements or valued items.
The EAM system is only one of the 'enables' to good asset management. Asset managers need to make informed decisions in order to fulfill their organizational goals, this requires good asset information but also leadership, clarity of strategic priorities, competencies, inter-departmental collaboration and communications, workforce, and supply chain engagement, risk and change management systems, performance monitoring and continual improvement.
Public asset management expands the definition of enterprise asset management (EAM) by incorporating the management of all things of value to a municipal jurisdiction and its citizens' expectations. An example in which public asset management is used is land-use development and planning.
Increasingly both consumers and organizations use assets, e.g. software, music, books, etc. where the user's rights are constrained by a license agreement. An asset management system would identify the constraints upon such licenses, e.g. a time period. If, for example, one licenses software, often the license is for a given period of time. Adobe and Microsoft both offer time-based software licenses. In both the corporate and consumer worlds, there is a distinction between software ownership and the updating of software. One may own a version of the software, but not newer versions of the software. Cellular phones are often not updated by vendors, in an attempt to force a purchase of newer hardware. Large companies such as Oracle, that license software to clients distinguish between the right to use and the right to receive maintenance/support.