Chicago – I'm learning and getting a lot from my visit to the Enterprise Data World conference this week, reconnecting with friends at DAMA, columnists for Information Management magazine and following a good lineup of tracks.

Yesterday I gravitated to John Ladley’s sessions on Enterprise Information Management, which, in the confusing scheme of tech trends these days was a relief for reiterating some foundational points of EIM and taking them deeper.

Ladley runs IMCue Solutions and has seen his share of information debacles over the years, which he sometimes recounts in an exaspirational tone reminiscent of comedian Lewis Black. The passion is engaging but also contagious. Unlike Black, (link, NSFW) I think John Ladley perseveres not just on passion but by believing there's an outside chance he might, sometimes, be able to “fix” stupid.  

His definition of EIM calls for a program that manages enterprise information assets, which he's often said should be valued on a balance sheet. Information asset management within EIM are the principles by which we treat information in a business and accounting sense, measuring our results in lower cost or increased worth.

That mission calls for a rigor and many details I'm not fully convinced of yet. But by contrast, to not place value on data, (as lately advocated by Forrester's Rob Karel) sounds like a proposition that disinherits data from success. In a world where IT churns data endlessly, I think we'd agree value arises where information is actually put to use.

Since EIM is rooted in the business, Ladley's ultimate goal is to deliver EIM in a department with the same relevance to an organization as human resources or finance. And if you accept the mindset that it’s a vital critical support or staff function, you have to wonder why we so often manage information on a project basis - as if it really does have no value to own.

“Viewing EIM as a formal program gives all of the constituents of all the disciplines we are in the same perspective and presents a unified process and metaphor to address all our problems,” Ladley told me between sessions that attracted data architects and managers. “We have quality problems, master data problems, governance issues, they all have fundamental success factors, fundamental drivers, and they all have the same fundamental challenges in terms of buy in and of value proposition.”

Turf wars are lurking wherever a person seeks to carve out EIM in a stake like this, which by definition is going to ride herd on a lot of projects and disciplines. It’s probably not a great place to make friends and become popular.

Analysts aren't always going to see or tackle this directly. Even at our magazine, we never assumed information management would soon or maybe ever be a single unified discipline for the enterprise, even if we can draw the lines and tend to watch the same people move from one semi-related project to the next – for as long as they stick around anyway.

For those who have lost patience with the status quo, and have the moxie to pursue this kind of thing, it’s like a missionary calling. It’s a job you look for, not one that you'd hope finds you.

“The people who are here belong here,” Ladley told me.

Maybe it's not for everybody. But from what I saw, and despite the punditry, you’d be a rotten person to not hope they get a chance to prove their point.