It's easy to put a value on physical computers. It's much harder to put a value on an enterprise's applications, but these are more significant by far. Two interesting developments I noted while perusing some literature on the plane:
The Economist magazine (2/18/2006, p55 - online access paid) has a very focused discussion on the under-valuation of software as an enterprise asset in OECD countries, particularly the United Kingdom: "The new [OECD] numbers reflect a huge exercise to make sure software investment is counted correctly. The big change has been to "own-account" (developed and produced in-house) rather than purchased software. The revisions show [for the United Kingdom statistics] own-account software of £13 billion in 2003, compared with the previous figure of £2.5 billion. Estimates had been failing in particular to capture in-house software in financial and business services."
$17 billion dollars or so delta, yeah, that's real money...
I spoke in a previous post about the Norton/McFarlan article in 10/2005 Harvard Business Review; another section of that article reads: "One rule of thumb in determining intangible assets [i.e. applications] is to first measure the hardware inventory - including all mainframes, servers, and PCs - and then multiply that by ten. This renders a rough notion of what the software inventory will be (including off-the-shelf and proprietary software)."
If applications are real capital showing up on real balance sheets, can more effective management be far behind?
PS. And if applications are valued, can data be far behind? DAMA folk take note...