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PASS Update #35

It’s been a busy month for me for PASS activities. I spent almost the entire week last week on PASS related items and probably 60+ hours for the month:

  • Reviewing the annual budget
  • A call on SQLSaturday to work on plans for 2011
  • Tons of time on the Spring Event

I won’t share much in the way of details on the budget, we’re in the middle of the final vote to approve it now and we’ll make that public within about 30 days after that. Members get to see all the totals, we just remove some of the details that relate to privacy – salaries for HQ staff for example. I reviewed the budget about 2.5 times. It comes an Excel workbook with far too many tabs, I own the SQL Server Standard budget, plus a portion of the Community Connection budget – both are fairly easy to review. It’s the rest of the budget that is hard, looking at our spend in other areas, especially with regards to ‘overhead’. Sent Bill a lot of questions, got most of them answered. We did a couple calls to review final changes, and even then Wayne Synder caught something I missed – we had not included a line for adding to our long term reserves. Important item, just didn’t catch it because it wasn’t there.

Long term reserves are a big item for me. In my opinion we’ve got enough to survive a really bad year, but we’d suffer badly in doing it. You hope to never have that kind of year, yet especially for an organization like ours that has relatively few funding sources, it’s important to plan for it. This year we’ve budgeted about $50k to add to our reserves. I’d like to do more, but it would mean sacrificing growth. I think – my opinion – we’re at about half of the long term reserves we need to have, call it another $500k needed. We can accrue that if we budget for it over the next 5-6 years, and we can supplement that with a line of credit just in case.

On the SQLSaturday stuff we’re working on process and goals, no real changes. Still, it takes time even to build process. For example, last Friday I did a call to review with HQ the reconciliation process for accounting for the funds we hold in trust for SQLSaturday. We’ve identified a way to reduce the time it takes, but to do that took an hour call to work through it, 30 minutes to write the query and report over the weekend, and no doubt some extra time to tweak that as we run on live data.

The “spring event” is moving along, but it’s been at alternate times fun and frustrating. We’ve got a lot of people to coordinate, and it’s not as smooth as repeating an event that has been done before. Reviewing that budget has and continues to take a lot of time. One of our big goals is to maintain a $299 price point, and that necessitates a no-frills approach. But what is a frill? Is it wireless access, which will cost us $12,000 for the event? Coffee breaks, at $8 per person per break? Cheap badge holders or stick on name badges? Fewer or less fancy signs? T-shirts for speakers instead of polos? We will stick to the $299 price point, not up for discussion!

It’s also taking some time and effort to build the mental model across the team of what it looks like. We don’t want it to look or feel like the Summit, and we won’t want it to look or feel like a SQLSaturday either. For those of you who have been to both I bet that makes sense, but quantifying it – that’s tough. For me, it’s less formality, more speaker contact, a sense of a slower pace, yet an event with energy, a sense of fun. It’s more than just delivering great content.

We’re also struggling to figure out how to leverage our partnership with the local chapter (in this case oPASS) which is a key way of both reducing costs and making sure we reach those within reasonable driving distance. Jack Corbett is participating in the planning of the speaker selection process as well as how sponsors are handled, Kendal Van Dyke is teaming marketing with a focus on the Florida market. Obviously we’ll have volunteers from chapters staffing the event, but shouldn’t we do more? Right now I’m worried that we haven’t done enough there, which means going back and trying to figure out if that’s a real concern, or just being caught up in the details.

And besides that, I’m working on details of SQLSaturday #49 coming up on Oct 16, sending out invitations to speakers from last year that haven’t signed up again and nailing down other items we need to purchase besides the road signs.

Finally, with the call for nominations now open, I’ve got to decide soon about whether to seek re-election. That’s going to be a tough call. I like participating and giving back, and I think we’ve still got work to do on transparency and culture within the Board that I’d like to participate in. But, I’m also putting in more time than I can sustain for another 2 years. It’s definitely taken time away from both work and family that I can need to restore. I’ve got a couple weeks before the cut off, time to talk to some trusted friends to figure out which is the right path.


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.


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