Benefits for Some, All or Only a Few

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As a member of the PASS Board of Directors I attended the PASS Business Analytics Conference (BAC) recently. You can read more about it here and here (as well as here).

Let me start with an important note: I am voicing my opinion here as an individual, not an official stance of the PASS organization.

There is controversy around the BAC because of a whole bunch of things, but one question in particular bothered me. It was suggested that the people attending the BAC were just consuming the worth or value that other people who paid for the Summit generated. At first, I just dismissed this concept. It stuck in the back of my mind though. Suddenly I realized why.

Yes, the BAC was partly paid for by Summit. The attendees at the BAC were not all people who would have attended Summit. There were, maybe, 1/3, who have attended Summit, are going to attend Summit, or who might attend Summit. That means, a majority will not.


Money from Summit is used to support Chapters. Anyone ever canvassed their attendees at a local user group for who has gone or will go to Summit? I have. Most of the time, far less than 1/3. Do we cut funding for Chapters?

Money from Summit is used to support SQL Saturday. Once again, I’ve canvassed several of these for people who were going to be attending Summit. Again, way less than 1/3. No more funding for SQL Saturday?

How about the Virtual Chapters that money from Summit pays for? How many of those people are attending Summit? I don’t know, but I’d be shocked if it’s 100% or anything close to that. Are we cutting Virtual Chapters?

24 Hours of PASS is also paid for by Summit.

You know, everything that PASS does, whether you like it, and attend it, or not, is paid for by Summit. There are good arguments to be made that we should not be doing the BAC (and arguments that we should). Where the money comes from is absolutely not a part of that argument. Otherwise, we must pull funding from anything and everything that is done by PASS that doesn’t translate to 100% benefits for the people who paid for it, Summit attendees.

I believe that we, the members of PASS, should be open and accepting and willing to try new things, both from a technical perspective and from a personal one. Providing training and community is what we do. Let’s focus on that.


  • While I agree that PASS should try new things and expand our mission, we should also appropriately fund the missions we already have. It took years, literally years, to get an upgrade to the SQL Saturday website. And most of the work done by PASS for chapters is done via volunteers. Is there even a budget for virtual chapters?

    That said, if BACon can become another revenue stream like Summit, then it sets up PASS to further our mission. As members, we should be asking our board members to make sure that money is spent wisely.

  • Hey Mike,

    Thanks for the feedback. And yeah VC does cost money. We have to pay for licenses for the virtual meeting software.

    And, I agree, PASSBAC becoming a revenue stream is possible since it’s a paid event.

    But my biggest agreement is on the need to spend the money appropriately. I think that’s where the conversation belongs, not on whether or not we spend the money. We spend the money. We’re a not-for-profit. We’re supposed to spend the money.

  • Can you specify or point out the monies used to support chapters? I’d like to see a post and breakdown of costs/expenses for chapters, with some specifics on the top 3 spends. I struggle to see the profits from the Summit being spend on chapters in any significant amount.

  • The money spent on the web sites and on the virtual meeting software that is shared among the chapters is some of the money. There’s more on top of that in the budget. It’s not direct, cash in hand, payments though.

    But I’m with you. I think more on chapters is a good thing.

  • Dan Denney

    Wait, we have virtual meeting software available to the chapters? I was told that we didn’t have that available to us, because of cost reasons.

  • You wrote, “We’re a not-for-profit. We’re supposed to spend the money.”

    That makes it sound like all this free money is floating around, descending from the heavens, desperate to be spent. However, Summit prices went up by $100 this year – that money comes from somewhere. It comes from attendees.

    It would be really interesting to see what Summit prices would cost if PASS didn’t fund other endeavors.

  • Joe Hellsten

    Disclosure Member of SQLPass for years
    Attend multiple SSUG meetings annually
    Attend multiple SQL Saturday meetings annually
    Have not attended Summit for years for various reasons, not sure if that means I should not post but I am anyway. More money to SSUG and SQLSaturday would be a great thing but I also think new directions, new ideas, new conferences have to be explored. All in all I think PASS does a great job.

  • Brent,

    Nope. TANSTAAFL always applies.

    Doing nothing except Summit would be a change in direction for the organization, but one that could be explored. I’m not sure that everyone would agree that’s wanted by the community. However, if it is, people hopefully know where to go to let us know that. Thing is, people can ask for change, vote for change, or even vote with their feet and go elsewhere.

    I think PASS is doing good things. We can do some things better. We should stop doing other things. We should start doing still others. Being someone who has benefited from what this community does, I want to sustain it and grow it so that it benefits others in the same way it has benefited me.

  • Are there any advanced analytics available that can tell us whether the BA Conference has so many former – and indeed current- DBAs present is because it has been so heavily marketed to them by PASS, or because a third of BA professionals really are former DBAs?

  • Good question Gavin. I don’t have a specific answer, but I think we do have that data. I also don’t have all the budget available (and if I did, I can’t unilaterally release it), but I’m pretty sure the marketing was not at DBAs.

    Anecdotal evidence, I talked with approximately 35-40 people while I was there. Of those, ~1/3, were former DBA types doing either pure BI or analytics. They’re the accidental people I mentioned in my linked post. And I fully recognize that the plural of anecdote is not data.

  • To be clear, what I meant by “marketed to DBAs” was “marketed to the current PASS membership”, which it most certainly was.

    I think one of the difficulties is that the target is difficult to define; there are developer-centric sessions about Hadoop etc along with end user, “domain expert” material about Excel.

    I suspect the event covers similar ground, minus the vendor specificity of PASS, but at least you can tell what they’re about from the title of the event. (no connection, by the way).

  • Grant, I get that 4000 Summit attendees provide the funding for everything we do. I’ve said many times, it’s what every non profit dreams of, a successful and repeatable fund raiser. I’m ok with spending the “profit” in creative ways, including – this might surprise you – taking some chances and even losing money on some things. That’s how we learn.

    The problem I have with BAC is I feel like we’re funding a group that is close to unrelated to the core PASS members. I know there is overlap. I wouldn’t mind seeing a SQLRally sized effort/event there for it, but when it comes to changing the org name to fit it in, we’ve lost our way. It’s not just the money, it’s the time and energy.

    PASS shouldn’t be just DBA’s and it doesn’t have to be just SQL Server, but it can’t be everything to everyone.


  • Andy! Twice in one day. Awesome!

    I know you’re not risk adverse. I remember a particular magazine that you let me ruin. I hate thinking about that. So, it’s no surprise that you’re willing to gamble.

    I think your questions about the BAC are the ones that should be asked and answered. I hope they’re the ones I’m asking. I sincerely hope I’m getting good answers and that we’ll do what’s right for the organization. That’s the plan.

  • Andy iterated what I’ve thought recently and expressed to some: a Rally-ish event aimed at our BA membership would be a great evolution of the BA Conference. I also appreciate the transparency you’re providing here on the site. Thanks for taking the time Grant (and everyone taking the time to provide feedback.)

  • Cody

    I’d prefer that we can all see the answers to Dan’s question instead of it going behind closed doors with a regional mentor.

    I mean as a mere chapter and virtual chapter attendee I don’t know anything about what’s going on in the organisation. This kind of stuff should be transparent and equal IMHO.

  • Grant,

    Following up your reply to me. Never thought that you ruined the magazine. It was worth a try, but it was a HARD problem and we (I) didn’t give you enough resources to do it (and even them, it would have been tough).


OK, fine, but what do you think?