We use the following definitions for common asset management terminology:
- Asset. An artifact that is retained after its initial purpose is fulfilled. Assets may be tangible (made from atoms) or intangible (made from bits). For example, a chair is a tangible asset that can be used by different people over time. Working source code is an intangible asset because it is retained and potentially updated in the future to address new stakeholder needs.
- Asset management. The purposeful creation (or rescue), management, support, and governance of potentially reusable assets across your organization.
- Asset usage.The utilization or application of an asset that cannot be reproduced and therefore must be used in a serial manner. For example, a specific hammer can be used by one person at a time, you cannot use the hammer while I am using it but you could use it after I’m done with it. Similarly, an electronic book with strict digital rights management (DRM) licensing rules can be read by one person at a time, but two or more people wouldn’t be allowed to copy that single license to read the book in parallel. Yes, you could buy another copy of that hammer or that e-book but they would be different instances that you needed to pay for.
- Asset reuse. First, the utilization of an intangible asset that can be easily reproduced so that it is effectively used in parallel by multiple people or things. Second, the continued usage of a non-reproducible asset for a new purpose. Examples: A template for a slide deck can be copied as many times as needed and applied in numerous presentations; a web service can be invoked by a multitude of software programs, enabling those programs to reuse the existing functionality rather than redeveloping it from scratch; and the office furniture that was previously used by the person who had “your” cubicle before you.
- Robust asset. An asset that is appropriately documented, generalized beyond the needs of a single team, thoroughly tested, is of high quality, and ideally has several examples to show how to work with it where appropriate. Robust assets are much more likely to be (re)used than items without these characteristics.
- Reusable asset. A robust asset that has been used at least three separate times by at least three separate teams. You can claim that something is reusable, but it isn’t truly reusable until it’s actually been reused; reusability is in the eye of the reuser, not in the eye of the creator.
- Ad-hoc reuse. An informal approach to reuse where individuals or teams reuse whatever they can find on their own. Ad-hoc reuse is often a good start.
- Engineered reuse. A formalized approach to reuse where an organization actively supports the creation/purchase and management of reusable assets.