BA Community Goals for FY 2017


I wanted to take this opportunity to follow up on the recent blog from Denise McInerney, The Future of the BA Community. That blog spoke to the history of BA and PASS, and also detailed why PASS has decided not to host a BA Conference in 2017. I won’t go into any more of that reasoning here – you can read that in the blog – but what I will touch on are some of the strategies for community building and the BA Community goals for FY 2017.

If it wasn’t already clear enough in Denise’s blog, it should be stressed again, that even though we are not proceeding with a BA Conference next year, we are still focused on developing and strengthening our BA community. Our team has been prioritizing activities to support meeting our goals and support PASS’ overall strategic priorities of membership growth and engagement. These priorities were developed based on the status of our current business analytics community; see infographic:

<Click on image to view PDF>

These priorities include:

- expanding and maturing local and virtual events
- community leadership and engagement (advisory program)
- establishing thought leadership content.

The strategy is designed to take a more localized, grassroots approach to building and supporting the PASS BA Community. Our efforts will include ongoing thought-leadership development within the business analytics community. We will deliver regular BA Marathons throughout 2017 and will also establish regular thought-leadership podcasts with leading influencers and business analytics experts. We will also engage our BA Advisors and experts on a variety of topics throughout the year.

At the core of the strategy is a series of BA Days, one-day events that focus on in-depth training and longer sessions on leading topics specific to business analysts. We are currently putting together a pilot event set for January 2017 and have invited community members to reach out to us expressing their interest in partnering with PASS to host a future event.

Finally, we will continue to work with our established Virtual Chapter Leaders to further support their needs and educational content. This includes thought leadership pieces and new webinar formats (e.g., the ExcelTV and Excel BI VC partnership, with the first event to be delivered on August 16, 2016).

We want to continue to build, strengthen and streamline these efforts using the aforementioned goals. If you have any feedback or thoughts on how we can build the community, please reach out.

Jen Stirrup

Director, PASS Business Analytics

Policy on Board Members Accepting Paid Speaking Engagements

Earlier this Spring the Board of Directors commenced a discussion surrounding the policy of accepting payment for speaking engagements as a PASS Board member.

Through communications within the Board, posts on my personal blog, as well as conversations with various interested individuals, I solicited feedback about how best to approach this situation. The goal was to provide clarity and transparency around the issue of compensation at PASS-branded and PASS-sponsored events.

The PASS Bylaws are clear about Board members and payments by the organization. Section VI.14 talks about compensation:

Directors shall not receive any salaries for their services as Directors, but by resolution of the Board of Directors, a fixed sum and/or expenses of attendance, if any, may be allowed for attendance at each regular or special meeting of the Board; provided that nothing herein contained shall be construed to preclude any Director from serving PASS in an educational or speaking capacity and receiving compensation upon approval by a majority vote from the Board of Directors. 

To expand on this, when we serve on the Board, we’re doing it as volunteers. However, with the approval of the Board (which requires a recorded vote during an official meeting) we can receive payment to speak at a PASS event (e.g. Summit), and receive payment for a pre-conference session, just like any other community speaker.

The bylaws don’t define what happens when the event isn’t being run by PASS. A current example is SQLSaturday. While PASS owns the brand and supports all worldwide events through the website, funding, assistance in sponsorship, and through various other means, PASS doesn’t legally run those events. A SQLSaturday is branded by PASS, but not managed by PASS. As such, if a SQLSaturday wants to host a pre-conference seminar and charge for attendance, a Board member would find themselves in an odd spot if they chose to take compensation because until recently, it was unclear how that was dealt with. The bylaws also don’t talk about events that PASS provides sponsorship to, but isn’t in any other way affiliated.

At the June Board meeting this issue was resolved.

We now have a policy in place, approved by our lawyers, that didn’t require a change to the bylaws, that defines how this works for sitting members of the Board:

PASS recognizes that speaking may be an important part of individual Board member careers and/or community involvement. As such, PASS Directors are empowered to apply for, and take advantage of, any unpaid speaking opportunities, either within or outside of the PASS organization.

PASS Directors are able to take advantage of certain paid speaking opportunities while they serve on the PASS Board. As a Director of the PASS Board it is expected that Board members put the interests of the PASS organization ahead of any personal or professional concerns to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Directors may speak at both “PASS-branded” and “PASS-sponsored” events; however, as per the PASS Bylaws, they may not take paid speaking opportunities at “PASS-owned” events without asking permission of the Board.

PASS Directors may also take advantage of paid speaker opportunities outside of the PASS umbrella (i.e. not PASS owned, branded, or sponsored).

Directors are asked to disclose any paid speaking opportunities during the monthly Board meetings.

On the one hand this is a very minor issue that was quickly resolved. On the other hand, this is about addressing two vital requirements for the Board. First, we must ensure that we are as open and transparent as possible in order to avoid even the suggestion of impropriety. Second, we recognize that Board members may also be active speakers within the community.  This new policy clarifies the issue and satisfies those important requirements.

I want to thank all the members of the Board for their assistance and input on this. I also want to thank all the work done at PASS HQ to help us with this issue. Most of all, I want to thank everyone who provided feedback when I asked how this should be approached. Everyone helped to craft a clear policy that will support our organization as we move forward.

Grant Fritchey
EVP, Finance and Governance

PASS HQ is Hiring its Next Community Evangelist

Are you passionate about community? Do you wake up in the morning wondering how you can support a global engagement movement by growing a dedicated community of data professionals to connect, share, and learn? PASS is seeking a Community Evangelist to join its team.  Read on to learn what it takes to be a stellar community evangelist.

Overview
With a global membership of more than 250,000, PASS’ mission is to become the nexus of thought leadership, with the goal of growing its global membership to two million members by 2020.  Our primary mission is to support education and networking opportunities for individuals leveraging the Microsoft Data Platform. This is done through local and virtual chapters; free online events; local and regional events, and our annual PASS Summit.


What a Community Evangelist Does for PASS
Acting as ambassadors for the organization and advocates for the community, our Community team members play a key role in helping PASS do great things. Reporting to the Director of Marketing and under the direction of the management team of C&C/HQ, here’s an idea of what you can expect in this role:

  • Mentor chapter leaders to help build and sustain their user groups.
  • Coach chapter leaders as required.
  • Identify new cities to host SQLSaturday / regional events and support existing event organizers annually.
  • Look for opportunities to establish new chapters and recruit new chapter leaders.
  • Represent PASS in person at events throughout the year (including international events).
  • Build and enhance an active network of regional mentors, encouraging them to be active PASS ambassadors at events and user group meetings.
  • As part of the PASS HQ team, help execute successful community programs at events like PASS Summit.
  • Work with the larger PASS team (HQ and the Board of Directors) to execute the organization’s strategic vision.
  • Develop strategic priorities and projects to support the membership growth of PASS.
  • Monitor social media and respond/escalate community issues and concerns, as required.
  • Maintain a positive dialogue with the PASS community, including blogging and tweeting regularly about community experiences.
     

What PASS Does for a Community Evangelist
Being an evangelist is incredibly fulfilling both personally and professionally. What can you expect as a PASS Community Evangelist?

  • Grow your network while meeting professionals from all walks of life.
  • Visit new places around the world while travelling on behalf of PASS.
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of Microsoft technologies while attending events as a representative of PASS.
     

Who You Are
We’re looking for someone who is passionate and enthusiastic about supporting and growing a global community.  Our ideal person is friendly, outgoing, self-motivated and an active volunteer (in the data platform community). You don’t mind talking with people (sometimes for many hours a day!) and you enjoy sharing your community experiences through blogging and social media. You don’t need technical expertise, but you do need to be familiar with the technologies at a high level. 

You are as equally comfortable engaging with a data platform professional just beginning their career, as you are a data scientist with many years’ experience, and won’t let a lack of technical knowledge hold you back from establishing and building on these relationships.

As a global organization that needs to communicate with people around the world, we are looking for a candidate that has flexibility in their day to day schedule.  Since the position is located remotely, the ideal candidate is someone who exhibits strong self-management traits, has good administrative skills and is well organized.

Travel is part of the job so expect to fly, and because many of our events take place on weekends you’ll be required to work on Saturdays from time to time.

 

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree in related field plus at least six years’ relevant professional experience required.
  • Experience building and fostering community and membership engagement.
  • Demonstrated ability to give presentations and speak to groups. 
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills, comfort with Internet technology and social media.
  • High level of attention to detail, flexibility, superior follow through, and the ability to embrace the unexpected with grace and maturity.
  • Demonstrated understanding of the Microsoft Data Platform and its ongoing evolution.
  • Intermediate knowledge of HTML (for email and for web) and CSS.
  • Experience using Google analytics or other web analytics programs.
  • Strong Microsoft Office experience, including SQL Server, Office 365 and Power BI.
  • Passion for travel (this position is ~30 to 40%+ travel - some weeks gone for a few days, some multiple days).


Interested?
If you’re excited at the thought of being a Community Evangelist for PASS we’d like to hear from you! Please email Georgia Dahle, Director of Marketing (
georgia.dahle@sqlpass.org) to learn more or to apply for the position.  Deadline to apply is September 2, 2016.

To be considered for this role, you must include:

    • An up-to-date resume
    • A cover letter outlining your experience and salary expectations
    • Links to your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn account, etc. 

 

Addressing Concerns About the SQLSaturday Driving Radius



The PASS community showed their commitment by engaging in an active debate on a recent blog – Making SQLSaturday Sustainable. As a passionate and dedicated community, these discussions and debates are critical to our success and challenge the Board to look at the business decisions that need to be made. As we look back from the discussions from last week, we recognize that there were things we should have done differently. We have heard your feedback – which we are thankful for - and continued dialogue this week and are sharing with you the changes we are making based on the conversation.

We should have communicated earlier on the challenges many SQLSaturday organizers and sponsors were expressing to us. Some of these challenges were made public via social media, others were done quietly and directly to Board members and our Community team.

As the new criteria was evaluated, we failed to share our findings with the organizers of SQLSaturday and in particular those that could be affected by the changes. We’d like to explain why the radius was increased to 600 miles.

Currently, there is a 400-mile driving radius restriction that has been in place for the past four years. This means that no two events within 400 miles of each other should be hosted on the same day. This parameter was implemented in FY2012 to help keep two locations from competing for the same resources - speakers and sponsors.

By the end of FY2016, SQLSaturdays had doubled in size from FY2012. Since January of this year, feedback has been shared from sponsors (both local and GAP partners) on the number of overlapping events in a region, as well as organizers reporting they are struggling with sponsorship. We recognized that to prevent further sponsor exhaustion, and ensure the financial sustainability of SQLSaturday, we needed to look at finding an alternative that could provide support for both organizers and sponsors.

It is important to recognize that these changes are intended to protect the smaller events. They are designed to guide planning, not to limit events. As with the 400-mile driving radius currently in place, if an event requests a date that is already committed to by a neighboring city, we approach both organizers to ensure support. We will continue to be flexible with individual organizers to support and ensure their events are a success, as we have always been.

Hearing your feedback on the guideline, we will be piloting the 600-mile driving radius distance for events in North America beginning January 1, 2017. We will not include the back-to-back weekend restriction during this pilot, and ask for ongoing feedback from organizers, our sponsors, and attendees. We’ll share our findings with you once they are compiled and our recommendations for improving SQLSaturday events. Our commitment to you is to ensure the sustainability of all SQLSaturday events.

To get a better idea of just what this change would look like, below is an example of how it would still be possible to have 5 SQLSaturdays on the same date, all over 600 miles apart. With at least 20 non-holiday weekends in the calendar year, the growth of SQLSaturdays could continue here in the US; but if these events are to sustain, it’s going to mean organizers looking to see how they can manage their budgets more effectively at the local level to help across the entire community. Steve Jones brings up some very good suggestions in his post this past week, Slimmer SQL Saturdays, on ways of cutting costs, and more of these “best practices” blogs will be showcased in an upcoming series in the PASS Connector newsletter.

In an effort to ensure better communications, we are creating a dedicated distribution list for all SQLSaturday organizers to foster discussions (such as the introduction of the new radius) with you, so that we receive your feedback before final decisions are made. We realize this is long overdue – and we hope you will engage with us as we work together toward making our community (and surrounding events) successful.

While we begin to analyze some of the other suggestions around the larger events, these initial changes will be monitored closely to see if they need revisiting. We will continue the dialogue in the days and months ahead to ensure support and sustainability for our SQLSaturday events around the world. We want you to be a part of the conversation. Please reach out to us directly, reply to this blog, or send feedback to feedback@sqlpass.org.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

Karla Landrum
Community Evangelist

The Future of the BA Community



Everything we do at PASS is focused on helping members—and the broader data community—connect with each other, share experiences, and improve their skills. We are dedicated to providing networking opportunities, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning across all our Local and Virtual Chapters and communities. In 2012, we embarked on an initiative to reach out to the growing number of business and data analytics professionals tasked with extracting meaning and value from their organizations’ data.

Over the past 4.5 years we have learned a lot about the needs of those who work in Business Analytics (BA). We have presented thought leadership and technical training at four annual Business Analytics Conferences, helping thousands of data professionals use technologies such as Excel, Power BI, SQL, and other analytics platforms to gain insight into their business. And our community continues to grow, with more than 25,000 PASS members from around the world identifying a professional interest in BA and 27% year-over-year (May 2015 - May 2016) growth in the BA Virtual Chapter.

At the same time, the data professionals who manage the systems that store data are being challenged to support analytics needs in new and different ways. From running R in SQL Server to providing users with self-service access to data through Power BI, to unlocking the possibilities of advanced analytics through the Cortana Intelligence Suite, the technical interests and educational needs of DBAs and Developers in IT, and data analysts in the business, are increasingly overlapping.

As more companies across all industries are embracing data to inform their decision making, the growth opportunities for PASS members abound.

I’d like to share with you the evolution of the strategic direction of our BA initiative. The heart of the plan moving forward is community growth, with a focus on expanding outreach to increase visibility, by strengthening local groups, and broadening the scope of our analytics community globally.

A major component of PASS’ BA initiative has been the BA Conference. At BA Conference 2016 we again attracted the right business analytics audience and provided them with relevant content. BAC 2016 received an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees; 91% were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied and most said they would recommend BAC to a colleague. However, despite very positive attendee feedback for the BA Conference the past two years, the event has not grown in attendance.

The PASS Board spent time reflecting on all we have learned the past four years and has decided to take a more comprehensive, multi-prong approach to BA community engagement in FY17. We will emphasize local events and user groups, expanded virtual engagement and Marathon series, and thought leadership, instead of investing the majority of time and resources into a single large conference. PASS knows that the best way to grow community is to be in the community, working alongside our members and volunteers. If you are interested in hosting a local event or for more information, contact Teresa Cheung (teresa.cheung@sqlpass.org).

We believe a more localized effort with a variety of offerings will drive more effective engagement and growth for our PASS community. As the community evolves, the PASS Board will continue to assess and adjust. While we will not be hosting a BA Conference in the spring of 2017, we are open to holding another large BA event at a later date.

Business Analytics is a natural extension for PASS. We are committed to helping data professionals connect, share, and learn, whether they work in IT or in the business. We are very excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to the continued growth and success in the area of Business Analytics.

Denise McInerney
Vice President, Marketing

Making SQLSaturday Sustainable

SQLSaturdays are an important part of PASS’ global community growth and how our community connects, shares, and learns.

PASS took over the license for SQLSaturday in 2010 when there was only a handful of events.  Since then it has grown dramatically, with more than 120 events held in the 12 months ending June 2016. To continue to see this growth and provide you with the best possible training and networking experiences, we need to ensure the financial health and stability of SQLSaturday. This will mean a couple of changes to the existing SQLSaturday model that will take effect on January 1, 2017.

These changes will affect the way some of our community members plan and execute events.  We believe that these changes will help to balance the growth of our SQLSaturday portfolio, while ensuring sustainability for local organizers. These changes are intended to:

  • ·         improve the attendee experience
  • ·         improve the sponsor experience
  • ·         increase PASS’ ROI
  • ·         present a consistent and strong event model.

The first change we are going to make is to the amount of funding support we provide organizers. Currently any organizer, whatever the size of their SQLSaturday event, receives $500. Starting January 1, 2017, we will be reducing this to amount to $250 and targeting those cities/locations that really need the financial support to grow, rather than well-established events that are better capable of attracting sponsors and financial support. When assessing those events that require financial support, PASS will be meeting with event organizers and complete a review of past performance.

Which brings me to the second change: implementing a new 600-mile radius and concurrent event timing restriction to reduce competition between individual SQLSaturday events in Canada/USA.  The event timing restriction means that events within the 600-mile radius cannot occur on the same weekend or one weekend prior or after.  This will help to deliver a more consistent and satisfying experience for sponsors, which will reduce sponsor exhaustion and assist with increasing overall ROI.  The existing 400-mile radius restriction for all other regions will remain. 

We believe that by making these changes we can ensure the future growth and financial success of SQLSaturday. I welcome feedback — please comment below or share your thoughts to feedback@sqlpass.org.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

Project Priorities for the SQLSaturday Portfolio


As I have only recently transitioned into this portfolio, I will provide a mid-year update based on Tim Ford’s previous strategic focus for the remainder of the PASS fiscal year. Later in the year, I will provide an update on 2016-17 priorities, once I have had the opportunity to explore the portfolio in more detail and start to develop some of my own priorities and deliverables.

I should start be mentioning that the SQLSaturday portfolio is in really good shape. We saw a record 115 events in 2015, with the largest increases in EMEA and LATAM for new events, which is very encouraging as far as our global growth.

In addition, updates to the website have made it possible to link speaker evaluations and help to develop new speakers. Leveraging this information aids the PASS Programs team during the speaker review process for PASS Summit. However, the evaluator tool is only used by some SQLSaturday organizers and I encourage you all to use this valuable tool.

While many of you share enhancement/design suggestions on the SQLSaturday website, and we do appreciate that, we will only be responding to existing support tickets/issues, and are not currently looking at feature enhancements. Any such changes will need to be planned as part of the IT roadmap for FY2017 and beyond.

For the remainder of this year, we are looking at making improvements to onsite logistics, registration, and reporting for organizers of SQLSaturday events. This will include registration efficiencies achieved through enhancements to ticketing and the event package that attendees receive.

As part of this process, I will be working closely with Tim to collect and analyze more of our attendee data. Tim has already covered this off in his recent blog post, so I won’t spend any more time on that here, except to say that collecting this data will help us to improve not just future SQLSaturdays, but other PASS events and activities, as well.

As a SQLSaturday organizer or attendee, if you have any questions or comments, or would like to provide feedback on anything related to SQLSaturday events, please get in touch.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

Portfolio Priorities for 2016: Chapters


During the January PASS Board meeting we took stock of where we stand on our current goals for the Chapters portfolio. The goals we set for portfolios follow the PASS fiscal year, July 1 through June 30. That makes this a mid-year review. The current goals were set by the outgoing portfolio owner, Grant Fritchey, so I’ll be overlooking program execution for the rest of the year. New goals for next year are still in the works and more details on these will be shared when they are finalized. Here are the current goals and where we stand today.

Increase Regional Communication

The plan here is to have a mini-Connector newsletter. The desire was to have a smaller version with regionally-targeted content. This would allow chapter leaders to let PASS members be aware of user group meetings, SQLSaturdays, or other regional events that are relevant to them. PASS HQ Marketing was already working on building a way to target our members based on geographical location, and we’ll be able to leverage that to accomplish this. As of right now, we are awaiting completion of that project before we can proceed. The good news is that communications have increased from PASS HQ to the Chapters. As a result, over 18,000 members joined Chapters in 2015, a three-fold increase on 2014, and we are currently on-track to see similar growth in 2016.

Increase Communication from the Board and HQ to Chapter Leaders

Two Chapter Leader meetings were held in 2015: An online meeting in March and onsite at PASS Summit. The monthly Chapter Leader deck and information has been increased to bi-weekly distribution, and later this year we will further support Chapter Leaders by expanding these decks to include more targeted content of interest to Chapter members.

Regional Mentor Scorecards

The Regional Mentor (RM) program has had some ups and downs over the years, so a survey was created to poll Chapter Leaders on their thoughts about the RMs for their region. This adds some responsibility for the RMs and also gives a voice to their direct customer, the Chapter Leaders. This was completed and we are aggregating the results now. Overwhelmingly, Chapter Leaders have supported these efforts and want to see the program continue. Various initiatives are currently being undertaken to strengthen and improve the program.

Connect Speakers with Chapters

This is essentially a speaker bureau, but privacy and legal issues prevented us from rolling out one to date. Remember that PASS is a global organization, so we have to take into account the laws of the countries where we operate Chapters. What we were able to do was add an opt-in to the speaker profile on the SQLSaturday site as a first step. If we are able to navigate the legalities, we still need to be able to target it regionally, which we can’t do until the marketing project mentioned earlier is completed. Although we set the stage with the SQLSaturday speaker profile update, the viability of this goal completely depends on our ability to satisfy the various privacy issues across our community.

Support Growth in EMEA and LATAM

LATAM growth has exploded. Last year, we saw over 2400 members join PASS from LATAM regions, compared to 328 new members in 2014. LATAM has added three Chapters, EMEA grew by nine chapters. For the LATAM region, we started delivering the Chapter Leader deck in both Spanish and Portuguese.

Ryan Adams
Director, PASS Chapters

Confidential Abstract Coaching


The Call for Speakers is off to a great start for 2016 and we’re looking forward to receiving even more abstracts. Did you know that we’re offering an abstract coaching service again this year? Last year’s service was extremely successful. Louis Davidson leads the team providing the reviews and he has written a blog with more information to help you with your submissions. I served on this team last year and it was rewarding, both for the participants as well as for the reviewers. Even if you're a seasoned presenter, I encourage you to take advantage of this service, but please do so soon, so the team isn't overwhelmed at the last minute!

We've had some questions about the speaker history listed in the Speaker Portal. While it is our goal to have the data from the SQLSaturday site imported and all speaker history merged, it’s not something that will be ready for this year. The data in the Portal includes last year’s entries, so everything is still there. Please take the time to ensure your histories are complete so the speaker review team has an accurate picture of your accomplishments.

To help attendees get better value at this year's PASS Summit, we're defining a set of paths for specific learning targets. Here are a few examples:

• a Junior Database Administrator learning the skill sets to become a Senior DBA
• a Database Administrator wishing to learn Business Intelligence techniques
• an IT Manager wanting to understand the value of new SQL Server features

We'd like to hear your ideas of other similar paths, and we'll be evaluating abstracts during the review process to see what fits in the learning paths. Hopefully new and returning attendees will be able to better plan their learning goals, and we can align our content with their needs.

Thanks for everything you do for the PASS community.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

Allen White Appointed Director, PASS Programs


On January 20, the Board voted on the nomination to fill the vacant Director-at-Large seat, which was vacated by Grant Fritchey when he assumed the EVP position. The successful nomination of Allen White into this vacant seat completes the Board composition for 2016. Allen is well known in the PASS community and brings a wealth of experience and volunteering service that will be a big benefit to the Board.

As a result of Allen’s appointment, there will be some adjustments to existing Board portfolios. Allen takes on Program, while Ryan Adams assumes the Chapters portfolio, and Argenis Fernandez will oversee SQLSaturdays. This realignment brings these portfolios in-line with each Director’s individual skillsets, experience, and interests, ensuring better deliverables for our global community. Please join me in congratulating Allen on this appointment, along with Ryan and Argenis on their new portfolios.

Adam Jorgensen
PASS President