PASS Board Meeting in Dallas

[cross-posted from Mark Ginnebaugh's blog at markginnebaugh.com]

I spent last Thursday and Friday in Dallas, participating in my first PASS Board Meeting.  PASS, the Professional Association for SQL Server, is an important part of the  SQL Server and  Microsoft Business Intelligence community, with over 60,000 members and 200 chapters worldwide.

I was excited to have a seat at the table, getting the inside story on some of the modest controversies of recent PASS history – transparency, the election process, the location of future PASS Summits, and how we deliver value to the community, to name a few.

Having been involved in other boards, I can tell you that PASS has an outstanding, and yes, passionate board. There were bound to be differing opinions, and I wasn’t disappointed.  On some issues, we are simply in uncharted territory, left to our own opinions about where to invest, and what initiatives to pursue.

It’s clear that this board is well-stocked with serious, capable, and committed individuals  My 20 years of experience with technology user groups, including the three PASS Chapters in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, leave me feeling prepared to step in and provide some meaningful input to this prominent organization.

My specific responsibilities on the board will be announced later this week, and I will then be able to provide a few more thoughts on my objectives for PASS in the coming year.

 

PASS Summit 2013

[cross-posted from Thomas LaRock's blog at thomaslarock.com]

As some of you are aware, the PASS Summit for 2013 does not yet have a home. We have already sent out an RFP to roughly 15 cities. At the most recent PASS Board meeting we narrowed the list of cities down to five. I am not able to name those cities at this time, as we have asked those five cities to prepare their final  numbers for us to review. We expect to have those numbers in about a month or so at which time the Board will call for a vote and we will select a city.

Even though this decision is weeks away I have been spending a good amount of time trying to figure out what would be the deciding factors for me to support a Summit in one city versus another. My short list is as follows:

  • Microsoft support (in terms of employee attendance, not in terms of sponsor dollars)
  • Location to a safe, walkable downtown (ideal for networking and socializing)
  • Easily navigable conference center (you don’t need to walk for 20 minutes to get from one end to the other)
  • Affordable hotels
  • Affordable dining
  • Airport hub (need to minimize travel for all attendees)
  • Length of travel time to and from Summit

Those are the ones that immediately come to mind. Please let me know if you feel there is something else to consider, I am certain I am forgetting something.

In addition to the list of considerations I also need to weigh the importance of each. So, which would have more weight, affordable hotels or Microsoft support? Maybe being a downtown is better than having affordable dining? I don’t know I have the answers. But I do know that the more people I talk with the more I find that everyone has a different focus. Some people want a city like Seattle strictly because of Microsoft being there in full force, while others are tired of traveling to Seattle every year (myself included).

It is not an easy decision for us to make and I wanted people to know and understand it is on our minds now, well in advance of the decision. If you want to provide feedback in the comments below, please do.

 

Reflections of a Board Meeting

[cross-posted from Allen Kinsel's blog at allenkinsel.com]

Ive officially been on the Job as a Director for PASS less than a month and already I’ve had the chance to participate in 2 in person Board meetings.  1 at the summit (non-voting) and 1 this past week in Dallas.  Ill be the first to admit, I didnt really know what to expect going in but, I had some ideas.

Going in to the 2 day meeting last week I figured there would be some good conversations, a bit of brainstorming, a fair amount of arguing, and at least  touch of indecision.  What I found was roughly what I expected in that regard.

The Specifics of the actual meeting were by in large important but boring for the casual observer, so I wont be spending countless bytes that you wont want to read rehashing everything.  After the meeting minutes are published (2 weeks im told) I may revisit this post with thoughts but until then I figure I can wait a few months to rock the boat on details that werent overly “interesting” to the community at large.

Things I learned at last weeks Board Meeting

  • When you have an Ipad in the meeting room, expect plenty of offhanded comments
  • We’re doing a whole bunch of really good things in a piss poor less than optimal way
  • The SQLRockstar who brought bacon to breakfast on the BOD wont eat it as he’s a Bacon Snob
  • That a person can be a Bacon snob
  • The ability to give a backhanded compliment is an art form best demonstrated during meetings
  • Takeout Mexican food consumed in a hotel lobby will get strange looks
  • Coups have been attempted (successfully??) in some user groups
  • Getting 11 people to agree to a place for dinner is sometimes harder than getting them to agree about PASS Direction

What I was surprised the most by wasnt the funny quips, or the amount of good discussions, nor was it the ability of the board to identify problems.  Nope, I was totally expecting to find that the board really does “get it”, and for the most part on whole I think they(we) do.  What I was surprised the most by was the fact the hotel we were meeting at was channeling its inner Bush Garden:

PASS Update #49–SQLRally

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at sqlandy.com]

I get a lot of questions about how SQLRally is going, which tells me that there is a lot of interest and that we’re not communicating enough. The hard part is that in some ways there is a lot going on, and in some ways not all that much!

We started SQLRally last July and we’ve worked through identifying our format, pricing, selecting a logo, and getting graphics designed for the web site (you have looked at www.sqlrally.com at least once haven’t you?). We’ve got a marketing flyer done, registration is open, the call for speakers has closed, and our first round of voting on the schedule wrapped up earlier this week and should have been announced by now. We’ve got another three ballots to go, covering the DBA, BI, and Developer tracks. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on that process from speakers who love the idea of a ‘free market’ where they get to compete against their peers in a open way.

As we get closer to having the schedule complete it’s time for us to work more on marketing the event. Our intent has always been to do marketing a lot like we do for SQLSaturday, using social media and mailing lists to reach those that are interested, only trying to do so across a wider geographical area and building brand recognition at the same time. So how are we going to do that? Here are some of the things we’ll be doing:

  • Distributing flyers to events in the South East to help build awareness
  • Asking chapters in the region as well as .Net user groups to send email reminders to their members, to post a link to our flyer, and hopefully in the next week or so we’ll have a banner ad or two for them to use as well.
  • Ask potential speakers to work their blogs and twitter to reach their followers (and try to drive voters to their abstracts too!)
  • Mentions in the PASS Connector
  • Working our local contacts in Orlando, such as asking our staffing friends to send out a reminder to their network

The key is to make sure people know about it. It’s easy to think that a blog post or a tweet or an email is all it takes, but in practice those reach only a small percentage of the audience on any given day. We’ve got to keep repeating the message (hopefully in an interesting fashion) to make sure that those people that would jump at the chance to get two days of training for $299 know about the opportunity. Help us do that by mentioning it to people that you know; tweet, blog, update your LinkedIn profile with a note, make sure it gets mentioned at your next chapter meeting.

HQ is reviewing the logistics plan and that’s uncovered a few glitches, but that’s good, better to figure that stuff out now and not on opening day! We’ve invited the Florida chapter leaders and some key volunteers to join our planning calls, and one area we’re asking for their help in is coming up with ideas and leaders for ‘after hours’ events. We’d like to build the kind of strong social structure we have at the Summit, which takes time and iteration, but no reason to not try to do some creative stuff regardless.

If you’d like to see more the detail, I encourage you to read the minutes. We post minutes of each meeting and while it’s not exciting reading, it’s part of our effort to document how and why we do things, and to operate as transparently as we can.

 

The Budget Process

Every fiscal year PASS creates a detailed budget.  This helps us set priorities and communicate to our members what we’re going to do in the upcoming year.  You can review the current budget on the PASS Governance page.  That page currently requires you to login but I’m talking with HQ to see if there are any legal issues with opening that up.

The Accounting Team

The PASS accounting team is two people.  The Executive Vice-President of Finance (“EVP”) and the PASS Accounting Manager.  Sandy Cherry is the accounting manager and works at PASS HQ.  Sandy has been with PASS since we switched management companies in 2007.  Throughout this document when I talk about any actual work related to the budget that’s all Sandy :)  She’s the glue that gets us through this process.  Last year we went through 32 iterations of the budget before the Board approved so it’s a pretty busy time for her us – well, mostly her.

Fiscal Year

The PASS fiscal year runs from July 1st through June 30th the following year.  Right now we’re in fiscal year 2011.  Our 2010 Summit actually occurred in FY2011.  We switched to this schedule from a calendar year in 2006.  Our goal was to have the Summit occur early in our fiscal year.  That gives us the rest of the year to handle any significant financial impact from the Summit.  If registrations are down we can reduce spending.  If registrations are up we can decide how much to increase our reserves and how much to spend.  Keep in mind that the Summit is budgeted to generate 82% of our revenue this year.  How it performs has a significant impact on our financials. 

The other benefit of this fiscal year is that it matches the Microsoft fiscal year.  We sign an annual sponsorship agreement with Microsoft and it’s very helpful that our fiscal years match.

This year our budget process will probably start in earnest in March or April.  I’d like to be done in early June so we can publish before July 1st.  I was late publishing it this year and I’m trying not to repeat that.

Our Budget

Our actual budget is an Excel spreadsheet with 36 sheets.  We remove some of those when we publish it since they include salary information.  The budget is broken up into various portfolios or departments.  We have 20 portfolios.  They include chapters, marketing, virtual chapters, marketing, etc.  Ideally each portfolio is assigned to a Board member.  Each portfolio also typically has a staff person assigned to it.  Portfolios that aren’t assigned to a Board member are monitored by HQ and the ExecVP-Finance (me).  These are typically smaller portfolios such as deferred membership or Summit futures.  (More on those in a later post.)  All portfolios are reviewed by all Board members during the budget approval process, when interim financials are released internally and at year-end.

The Process

Our first step is to budget revenues.  The Board determines a target attendee number.  We have formulas based on historical performance that convert that to an overall attendee revenue number.  Other revenue projections (such as vendor sponsorships) come from different parts of the organization.  I hope to have another post with more details on how we project revenues.

The next step is to budget expenses.  Board members fill out a sample spreadsheet with their budget for the year.  They can add line items and notes describing what the amounts are for.  Each Board portfolio typically has from 10 to 30 line items.  Any new initiatives they want to pursue needs to be budgeted.  The Summit operations budget is managed by HQ.  It includes the cost for food, electrical, internet, etc.  Most of these come from our estimate of attendees and our contract with the convention center.  During this process the Board can ask for more or less to be spent on various line items.  For example, if we weren’t happy with the Internet at the last Summit we can ask them to look into different options and/or increasing the budget.  HQ will also make adjustments to these numbers based on what they see at the events and the feedback we receive on the surveys.

After we have all the initial estimates we start reviewing the entire budget.  It is sent out to the Board and we can see what each portfolio requested and what the overall profit and loss number is.  We usually start with too much in expenses and need to cut.  In years past the Board started haggling over these numbers as a group.  This past year they decided I should take a first cut and present them with a reasonable budget and a list of what I changed.  That worked well and I think we’ll continue to do that in the future.

We go through a number of iterations on the budget.  If I remember correctly, we went through 32 iterations before we passed the budget.  At each iteration various revenue and expense numbers can change.  Keep in mind that the PASS budget has 200+ line items spread over 20 portfolios.  Many of these depend on other numbers.  For example, if we decide increase the projected attendees that cascades through our budget.  At each iteration we list what changed and the impact. 

Ideally these discussions will take place at a face-to-face Board meeting.  Many of them also take place over the phone.  Board members explain any increase they are asking for while performing due diligence on other budget requests.  Eventually a budget emerges and is passed.

Publishing

After the budget is passed we create a version without the formulas and salaries for posting on the web site.  Sandy also creates some charts to help our members understand the budget.  The EVP writes a nice little letter describing some of the changes from last year’s budget.  You can see my letter and our budget on the PASS Governance page.

And then, eight months later, we start all over again.

SQLSaturday Round-Up (Jan. 20-26)

(This is Round 9 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

PASS SQLSaturday really hits its stride in the next few weeks. There's an event planned for every weekend through to Apr. 9 (except there's no event on Mar. 12 - anyone want to grab that spot?).

This past weekend SQLSaturday swung by Louisville. Early reports indicate the event organizers smacked a sweet SQL home run! 

For those of you on Twitter, follow @sqlpass and make sure to check out the #sqlsat and #sqlsaturday hashtags to stay up to date. Besides attendance at free learning events, there are many speaking and sponsorship opportunities available.

LAST WEEK IN SQLSATURDAY...

+ Kathi Kellenberger attended SQLSaturday #45, Louisville

+ Pam Shaw tried out a new registration process at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Brian K. McDonald presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa 

+ Julie Smith attended SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

COMING UP IN SQLSATURDAY...

As we mentioned earlier, there are lots of SQLSaturdays happening all over North America in the next few months. We don't want you to miss any of them.

Next Saturday, Houston hosts the event. On Feb. 5, there's a SQLSaturday in Cleveland, on Feb. 12 it's being held in Colorado Springs, on Feb. 19 you can attend the event in Phoenix, and on Feb. 26 it stops near PASS management HQ in Vancouver, Canada.

IN OTHER NEWS...

The PASS Board holds 2-4 in-face Board meetings per year. Since they usually coincide with a weekend, Director Thomas LaRock thought it would be a great idea if the Board held its meeting to coincide with a SQLSaturday, so let him know if you're interested!

Finally, few things can be a bigger boost to organizing your event than hearing what other successful SQLSaturday hosts have done (yes, the good and the bad) to make sure their events went off smoothly. Pam Shaw is a wily veteran, having already helped organize four SQLSaturdays, and she shares her thoughts on the process as a response to a wonderful blog post by another SQLSaturday veteran, Karla Landrum. Dig in!

Want to attend a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.

 

 

SQLSaturday Round-Up (Jan. 13-19)

(This is Round 8 of PASS's weekly round-up of SQLSaturday recaps. PASS community bloggers love their SQLSaturdays, and they love to tell everyone about their experiences, so who are we not to share that love?)

We took a bit of a hiatus over the holidays. Why? Because PASS SQLSaturday took a hiatus over the holidays. But that doesn't mean there wasn't feverish planning afoot, the most obvious example being SQLSaturday #62, held in Tampa on Jan. 15. This was the first SQLSaturday of 2011, but hold onto your hats, folks, because there are many more to come!

For those of you on Twitter, follow @sqlpass and make sure to check out the #sqlsat and #sqlsaturday hashtags to stay up to date. Besides attendance at free learning events, there are many speaking and sponsorship opportunities available.

LAST WEEK IN SQLSATURDAY...

+ Jose Chinchilla helped plan and host SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Pam Shaw helped plan and host SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Bradley Ball presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Denny Cherry presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Ronald Dameron presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa (and he has some important tips for newbie presenters)

+ Mike Davis presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Devin Knight presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Tim Radney presented at SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Jason Bacani attended SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

+ Andy Warren attended SQLSaturday #62, Tampa

COMING UP IN SQLSATURDAY...

It's a brand new year which deserves great news about a brand new venue. Sure enough, Karla Landrum is overjoyed to announce that there will (at last) be a SQLSaturday in Hawaii! SQLSaturday #72 will take place in Honolulu on April 1. And there was much rejoicing!

Also, Thomas LeBlanc reminds everyone that SQLSaturday #57 is coming up on Jan. 29 in Houston.

IN OTHER NEWS...

The PASS Board will be discussing its SQLSaturday strategies as part of the agenda at the January in-face Board meeting, including plans for how the event should branch into foreign (i.e. non-North American) markets.

And to end on a friendly note, Andy Warren would like to introduce Malathi Mahadevan, a new blogger but experienced SQLSaturday planner. Malathi will help head up her second event, SQLSaturday #45, coming up this weekend (Jan. 22) in Louisville. Hi, Malathi!

Want to attend a SQLSaturday? Check out the SQLSaturday website or "Upcoming In-Person Events" on the PASS Home page for upcoming dates near you.

Want to put on your own SQLSaturday? Click here to get started.

 

In-Face Board Meeting - Agenda

For those who don't know, the PASS Board of Directors is currently gathering at the Radiant Salon in Dallas, TX, for an in-face meeting of the Board. Items on the agenda include the organization's international event strategy, Summit planning for 2011 and 2013, a number of critical amendments to the Bylaws, and the vision, scope, and long-term goals of PASS. 

The itinerary is posted below - minutes from this meeting will be posted in early February. 

PASS BOARD MEETING AGENDA 

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 

TIME ITEM
8:15 am to 8:45 am Opening & Welcome – Bill
8:45 am to 10:15 am International Events - Bill
10:30 am to 12:00 pm International Events, Cont. - Bill
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Summit Planning 2011 – Rick H.
3:15 pm to 4:15 pm Site Planning for 2013 - Bill
4:15 pm to 4:45 pm Board Only Time - Bill

 

 

 

 

 

 


Friday, January 21st, 2011 

TIME ITEM
8:15 am to 9:15 am Bylaws - Bill & Hannes
9:15 am to 10:45 am Five Year Plan, Scope Document, Business Plan - Bill
11:00 am to 1:30 pm Five Year Plan, Scope Document, Business Plan, Cont. - Bill
2:30 pm to 2:15 pm Additional IT Proposal - Andy
2:15 pm to 3:00 pm Future Board Meeting Schedule - Bill

Feel free to leave comments here or on Twitter for any of the Directors or for the Board at large.

Cheers!

 

Best of PASS Community Summit 2010

[cross-posted from Allen Kinsel's Blog at allenkinsel.com]

 

The results are in!!!



After tabulating over ten thousand distinct session evaluations for the 2010 PASS Summit we are pleased to release the top 10 sessions overall and the top 5 sessions per track.

Getting these session results generated and out to the speakers in a timely manner is always challenging.  After taking until the second week of January 2010 to return Speaker Evaluations for the 2009 Summit we put in sweeping changes to prevent that from happening again in 2010.

Fortunately we were very successful in getting the data, We (Community Volunteers) designed and built a database to house the eval info, and designed a system that could be used to enter the evaluations quickly during and shortly after the Summit.  This was a resounding success.  Unfortunately where we fell short was in executing on delivering the data to the speakers and the community.  When we designed these systems, the process to send out the evaluations wasnt really discussed, or possibly just wasnt finished (the perils of distributing work include less insight into exact issues).  Either way, I wound up in the 23rd hour reworking last years SSIS package to fit the new database schema.

Success

We delivered Speaker evaluations to the speakers a full 3 weeks earlier than last year.  This included additional info about overall speaker scores that we had never provided in the past.  I realize a success to me (3 weeks sooner) is still a failure to others (4 weeks after the summit to get the data to the speakers)  We're going to be working on improving this for next years summit but for now, Ill take the wins where I can get them!

Failure

Getting the top 10 sessions posted has taken an extra 3 weeks.  I take full responsibility on this one.  I had the data on my laptop for the entire time, at first it was the holidays, then it was something shiny, after that I kept running into issues trying to make queries that werent just usable for this years summit, but would be able to generate similar results for any event we enter into this database.  In the end though, I have a set of queries for this process that will be reused.

Future

This database/process was one of the projects a large group of OUTSTANDING Community members chipped in and worked on under the umbrella of the program committee in 2010.  I have big plans to round up another set of volunteers and put a web based front end on the db and push its use out to all SQL events that would like to use it.  The information that we're gathering will be invaluable to both the speakers and to the community in the future.


http://www.sqlpass.org/events/bestofpasssummit2010.aspx

It’s Official! SQL Saturday #72 Honolulu, Hawaii is On The Map!

 

April 1st will be the first ever Hawaiian SQL Saturday in beautiful Honolulu.  Not only is the first SQL Saturday for the islands there, but it is also the first SQL Saturday in history to be held outside of the mainland (notice I didn’t add USA to that, as there is an event happening in Vancouver on Feb 26th). Special thanks to Jeff Bloom, one of the krewe of the .NET Users Group there in Hawaii for locking down the venue, Honolulu Community College, which has so generously offered the venue for FREE for our event, SWEET!
Now I know by now you are already looking at the calendar and saying, “What, a SQL Saturday on a Friday?” Yes, we had to concede to a Friday event primarily for two reasons. The HCC only has security until 2:00 on Saturdays, and the bigger reason, they turn off the air conditioning in the buildings at noon. (Plus there is the argument that who would want to give up a Saturday in Hawaii!). If you know your SQL Sat history, then you know this won’t be the first SQL Saturday held on a Friday. SQL Saturday #58 was held on a Friday in Minnesota and had a turnout of over 200, so we are confident that a Friday event will do well. And besides, what better reason to ask for the day off from work…free training that benefits their companies, what employer would say no to that. With what sounds like to be the most expensive place to live, free training should be welcomed by these employers there.
Now you are also probably realizing that there are two other SQL Saturdays happening that weekend, Boston and Dallas. We really did try to avoid this weekend, not because we felt there would be conflict for attendees, but for those who had already expressed interest in speaking at Hawaii’s event. But unfortunately we had to go with what we could get, so we realize we will lose some great speakers to these other two events as those locations will of course be more cost effective for them. Luckily this date did work out for Buck Woody (blog|twitter), as he is presenting a full day pre-con for us the day before the event. 
For those still interested in presenting in Honolulu, note, there will only be 3 tracks. Two devoted to SQL and one devoted to Developers. For those traveling over, we will do our best to give you at least two timeslots, so if you do register to speak, please post up more than one abstract. For speakers being sent by a sponsor of the event, we will guarantee you at least two timeslots. We of course are very interested in local speakers. If you are local to Hawaii and are interested in speaking, please register on the website, but also DM me on twitter (@karlakay22). Sponsors, we will have the sponsorship details posted over the weekend. We plan to make it very affordable for our sponsors, as we hope that you will consider actually coming over or sending someone to represent your company.
Time to get cranking on the website! Hope to see some of you there!
Mahalo!
Karla Landrum

 

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