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PASS Update #21

In Update #20 I mentioned that I was hoping to get the chapters portfolio for 2010. A few weeks have gone by and I can give you a preliminary update on where that stands. I had the opportunity to chat again with Rushabh on last Wednesday about his proposed assignments for 2010 and what he has in mind (not 100% complete) is that there will be two permanent portfolios, Chapters and Program (Summit schedule essentially), and all other Board members will take on a variety of special projects through out the year – ideally projects that they are passionate about and would move PASS a step forward. Right now it looks like for 2010 I will continue to “own” the SQL Server Standard project (with the assistance of Grant Fritchey and all the other volunteers on the team), but not the rest of the content picture. The Standard is far from done, we’re still learning some lessons and we have a lot of work to do to make a really interesting yet attainable venue for authors.

While the Standard isn’t done and ready to just hand off to HQ, it’s certainly in a place that takes less work now that things are moving. That means I’ll be picking up a couple other projects, and it looks like the first one will be the speaker bureau. The basic idea is to have a central repository for the list of speakers that Chapters can consult, but I’m hoping to go far beyond that, lettings speakers load up their abstracts and presentations so that when a new event appears, they can have a single click way to submit their abstract to an event – even a non PASS event. I’d also like to see it incorporate evals. And I think there might be a few other things that make sense. I see it – right now anyway – as a service that PASS will provide to speakers and events, helping each work more effectively. We may start with a simple catalog, but I think it should be more. Right now that’s a fuzzy vision, by end of January I hope to post a draft plan for the full concept and encourage all of you to help me make it better.

I’m definitely disappointed about not getting Chapters, but at the same time I know that Rushabh has limited resources and is trying to arrange everyone for maximum productivity/happiness. Beyond that, I have concerns about the new approach, two big ones being budgeting and ownership. On budgeting, the problem is that someone has to take ownership of a project and in most cases go procure the funding for next year. For example, I don’t think we have money allocated for the speaker bureau (it may come out of the Chapter budget), and if not, I can only do what I can do with volunteers until we have a new budget on Jul 1. It’s a concern, but may end up not being a deal breaker as we adjust to the new system. The other concern, ownership, is that we may start to build another instance of a ‘board within a board’, where some board members have ongoing budgets/responsibilities and others do not.

Another part of this is greater reliance on community leaders for projects. Grant is one example of someone that we’ve asked to take a larger than average role for a volunteer by owning the editorial side of the Standard. Grant does a good job, but what happens when he gets sick, changes jobs, just gets tired? Ideally just like in business we should be grooming a successor, but just like in business, it ain’t always that easy! I like that we will try harder to find volunteers to help us drive tasks, and that in turn means that Board members can be more ‘strategic’, focusing on long term goals, providing resources, etc.

So, I have concerns, but that doesn’t mean that this won’t work. In my view far more accountability will be a bigger factor in success or failure, regardless of how work is divided up. Also important is that we continually assess if this change is working or not, and tweak/change as we go. There’s a terrible tendency to set a plan for a year and just go, whether it works or not. My final stance though is that I think organizations need to give new leaders some room to change, and while I’m not sure this plan is better than the old plan, I’m willing to support it if that is where Rushabh wants to go. I’ve voiced my concerns and thoughts to him (and to you here), but now we go forward trying to make it work, not trying to find ways to prove that it won’t work.

Last Thursday we had our monthly Board meeting and approved most of the outstanding minutes. Not posted as I write this, but I will post a short note when they are available. I hope you’ll build the habit of reading the minutes each month. Not always exciting, but you’ll definitely catch things that I didn’t think to write about, and you’ll get more of a holistic view rather than my somewhat biased efforts to share what goes on. Right now our process is to approve minutes for a meeting by voice vote at the next meeting, but I’ve asked that we change to an email vote with the goal of getting minutes out 7-10 days after a meeting. Not only does this serve you better, but it’s just easier to confirm that the minutes are correct if reviewed shortly after a meeting. Right now it looks like we will have an in person Board meeting in March, and then again in mid June. The June meeting will be where we finalize the budget for the next fiscal year.

I’ve still got a few other things under way. The online store is almost done, I need to do some work on the Log Reader awards for 2010, I’m still sending out a couple invitations a week to authors to write for the Standard, still trying to get a PASS history page posted, building a process to get polos for Standard authors, and trying to get the blogger badge project started. I’ve also still got the blog aggregator project in progress, and have to see what I can do to get that one moving again.

I imagine that this will be my final PASS update for 2009 as I get ready for vacation. 21 posts about my efforts this year, plus some extra ones around the Summit, and I think that’s a not bad effort (saying so myself!) to share some of what goes on. I plan to continue next year at about the same pace, making sure that you know what I’m doing or trying to do, and giving you the chance to comment and steer that effort. I didn’t do as well as I had hoped on goals, clearly I have some things that just didn’t get finished. Not fun to not meet goals, and while there were some factors I couldn’t control, a good plan should account for those! I’ll continue working on them though, and share with you my PASS goals for next year in an post sometime in January.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Steve Jones on 15 December 2009

Excellent job on the posts, and good to hear how things are going.

definitely the workload should be shared around as people will leave and we don't want PASS to stop doing things.

Posted by Andy Leonard on 16 December 2009

Hi Andy,

  Like you, I am disappointed you did not get the Chapters portfolio. Some of that is me being selfish: I enjoy working with and learning from you.

  The new approach to portfolios sounds different, and it will be interesting to watch it executed. I have confidence in Rushabh.

  Thanks for all the transparency!

:{> Andy

Posted by Kevin Kline on 18 December 2009

First of all, let me say that I am =super excited= that you are working on the speaker's bureau.  

The speaker bureau is the sort of thing that, once implemented, will provide enormous assistance to the chapters.  I hope that it will integrate with both the abstract submission process for PASS' other events AND offer a "I'm open for webcasts" so that chapters can get a good speaker on a moments notice should one of their speakers fall through at the last minute.  That seems to happen a lot.

I'd also like to suggest that you (or someone) inside of PASS creates a "Projects" webpage where members can 1) see what director is responsible for which project and hold them accountable if need be, and 2) give volunteers a chance to volunteer on a project that they think is interesting and that they can contribute on.

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