PASS Board Update: April 2015

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It’s been a pretty interesting month on the board.

First, we did have a little problem. I’m sure one or two of you may have noticed that the SQL Saturday web site was down for a moment. Well, three days. Joking aside, this was a serious problem, but my involvement was largely peripheral since I’m in charge of Chapters. I tried to help out a little, offering what support I could and, if nothing else, supplying an ear, willing to listen. Quite a few people took advantage of that. I communicated all their information up the chain to HQ and the other board members. Nothing has been held back.

Next, we’ve started the budgeting process. That’s fascinating. As well as a giant pain in the… well, anyway. Thankfully the people at HQ are helping shepherd me through the process.

We’ve had a number of leadership changes at different PASS Chapters. A couple of new groups have been created. We’re making some progress there.

Also this month I went to the PASS Business Analytics Conference.

Let’s talk about this.

The event was really well put together. The keynotes were amazing. You can read about them here and here.  The venue was great. The speakers I saw seemed good (for the most part). We hosted a number of focus group discussions with attendees and speakers to get feedback on the event. Overall, they were extremely happy with it. They also provided a lot of great suggestions to help improve the event if we do it again.

And there is the question. Do we do this again?

I’m not sure.

If you saw my tweets during the event, I was very supportive. I was also actively promoting the event in the weeks leading up to it. All this is part of my responsibilities as a board member. We were committed to an event and I’m going to help the organization ensure that event is successful. Period.

However, if you had asked me whether I would support doing this again next year, prior to going to the event, I would have said no. Now, I’m not sure. The fact is, there’s a split between the perfect BAC audience member and the perfect Summit audience member. That’s not saying that there’s not crossover. There very much is. But, my concern is, can we, the PASS organization, properly support a community that is business focused using the tools we have for supporting a technology focused community? Should we?

From all the feedback, we supplied an event that people liked and cared about and, most importantly, would suggest to others. So we probably can support a business focused community. Should we?

For myself, and all this is just me, reporting to you, I think that the big question is, does this help our existing membership. Prior to this event, I would have said absolutely not. I would have argued that there was not a path from DBA to analyst. After talking to lots and lots of people at the event, I found that a healthy number of our peers have moved from being a DBA or BI person to being a data analyst. It goes something like “Hey! You know that data stuff, right? Well we need someone to do this data analysis thingymabob and you just volunteered.”

In short, many data analysts are accidental data analysts and they come from our peers, our community, in fact, our #sqlfamily. Now, should we do this thing? I’m on the fence still, but I don’t mind admitting, I’m wavering towards “Hell, Yes.”


  • Replace “data analyst” with developer. Can you say the same thing?

    Replace “data analyst” with systems administrator. Can you say the same thing?

    Replace “data analyst” with devops. Can you say the same thing?

    Replace “data analyst” with manager. Can you say the same thing?

    There are absolutely paths for database administrators to get to any of those careers, and there’s plenty of overlaps with the PASS Summit audience. So why would PASS build events for analytics but not development or systems administration or devops?

  • Good question.

    I thought there was a development track at Summit? And I just checked, there were a number of deployment oriented stuff. Nothing said DevOps, but we should have some of that. One session had some ALM in it. So we’re already at least partly serving those segments.

    From what I’ve seen this week, the principal split is on the orientation towards business vs. an orientation towards technology. Not that either approach ignores the other, but that there is a bias. The analyst segment biases towards business.

    But, that bias, that’s why I’m still on the fence. I’m only partly convinced that we ought to be doing this.

  • Grant – bingo. There *are* existing tracks at Summit, not separate conferences. That approach seems to work great for Summit.

    So what’s the need for a separate conference for this particular need, but not separate conferences for management, development, systems administration, or devops – which have proven larger audiences than the BA Conference has been able to bring in?

  • But it’s not about numbers. It’s about getting the right people in the room. I wasn’t at the other BAC events, so I can’t comment on them. This one, had the right people in the room. It’s a different audience than what we have at Summit. That means different marketing, different communication, lots of stuff, not the same as Summit. It makes sense to have it be a different event.

    Now, that difference, to me, that’s what drives the question of whether or not we should be doing this, not whether or not a different event is needed.

  • Yeah, that’s where I don’t agree. To do a really good event – and put the right people in the right room with the right message at the right time – each of those audiences (analytics, development, management, systems administration) are different conferences.

    I’m not arguing that they’re different conferences.

    I just don’t see why PASS feels the need to host an analytics conference, but not a separate conference for those other audiences. (I even see that there’s a need for SOMEONE to do it, I just don’t get why PASS is the one to do it. Like you said, it’s different marketing, different communication, different speakers, different attendees.)

  • This is possibly a good juncture for PASS to redefine its charter.
    What we are, where we wanna be in next 3-5 years. If we are going to be working on Analytics, should there be a separate body like a PASS-BA just as a PASS-DBA(you get the gist).

    I only hope we don’t spread ourselves so thin that quality of our main goals suffers.

    Further, the way PASS has gone about rejecting offer for help/volunteering is pretty discouraging for me. So on one hand we want to grow and grow fast; on other hand we have too many restrictions on who can help?

    Sorry if this is a ramble.
    Warmest Regards

  • Mike Lindberg


    My background is technical, and the position that I am currently in is partly DBA and partly leading the charge for business analytics in the organization. I have been to the summit (2011) and attended BA conference last week. I personally found more value in the Summit than BAC.

    I felt that PASS was still trying to get their “sea legs” as to a central message for the BA Conference. The stability is already there for the Summit – as the foundation of Summit is SQL Server. The BA conference, from my perspective, had a few different foundations (iOt, Big Data, PowerBI, etc.) From the sessions that I attended, it seems that the conference was lost in the buzz words of analytics.

    In addition to this, it seemed that SQL Server was lost in the conference. the first session that I attended, for instance, was related to Master Data Management and Data Manipulation. This was done wholly in Excel. A question was raised as to how to accomplish the same from an enterprise perspective, specifically asking about SQL, and the consensus seemed to be that the session was not discussing SQL, but Excel. Several attendees spoke up about MDS, and several offered assistance after the session, but it seems like a PASS conference without a focus on SQL Server starts with a misplaced foundation.

    On the plus side, I did see the BA Conference as something the Analysts at my organization would find useful. Because of this, I do see that Excel and PowerBI discussions are helpful – especially with a focus on applying these tools to the enterprise. Ideally in my mind, there would also be a more technical / strategic track to discuss how some of the Ad-hoc / Prototype / Personal BI solutions can be better integrated into an enterprise analytics platform – and more specifically – how SQL Server plays nice with this.

    At the moment, I am on the fence as to if I’d attend again. I have a long list of notes to research, and the keynotes and several sessions opened my eyes to the future…but also the feeling that I didn’t quite fit in at the conference.

    Speaking completely selfishly, it seems that me, or people like me that are straddling the technology and the business are your target for the BA conference. A firm foundation in SQL Server with supporting tools like Excel and PowerBI seem to be best to where I believe PASS wants to go with this.

    take this as it is….a random person commenting on a blog post.

    I do thank you, and others like Brent that have spent a ton of time building up the community. It is because of your work and dedication to the community that these learning opportunities are available. Thank you for that.


  • Grant,

    First, thanks for the update. For what its worth, I’d have like to seen your BAC updates posted here as well.

    I saw attendance as 615. That’s SQLRally’ish. I can’t call that a success or failure without seeing the budget results. It doesn’t at first glance feel like a win, but I guess that depends on who defines win – not snark, remember, we asked for clear goals on win or not and didnt get much of an answer.

    Assuming 615 is correct, I have to call it a failure based on the effort that was expended. If it was sized and supported as a SQLSaturday/sQLRally for a Virtual Chapter audience, it would be a huge win.


OK, fine, but what do you think?