So with that - I wonder if we "need" PASS apart from the Summit. And, sadly, we don't. And the days of big Summit may be passing soon anyway. It's expensive. Especially as currently run. And the landscape is competitive for big national events (Ignite, Build, Intersections, Connections) - but "just shy of big summit" size events are popping up more and more - as are regional events.
One thought I have for PASS is - Divestiture. Maybe it's time for the Big National Summit to go away. Be replaced with the "SQL Rally" (AKA SQL Bits, AKA Atlanta SQL Saturday) model. Larger "Regional" events. A free day of SQL Saturday like material "paid for" by focused pre-cons and paid tracks. Heck this smaller, more nimble PASS could -maybe- even try and build a certification path (though I'd suggest they don't. Microsoft has really polluted the waters for certification with all their moves and "retirements" and changes). But we don't need PASS to be a big central member management company that exists to sell a Summit in this model, or to sell names to sponsors who help keep the organization going. That model is way too much an "all eggs in on basket" approach. And that model requires a big management company - be it C&C (and they've done great things, I get it. I hear it. ) or some other one. But we almost exist in a circular existence at that point. We raise the money to have the Summit. We have the Summit to have the budget to pay the fees to run the org that needs the summit to have the money to pay the fees.
It's rather clear that as we've seen changes at the Summit (big party gone, breakfast gone, gifts changed, etc) that this must be because budget is down (or costs are higher) which makes me wonder about attendance. I also think we're coming out of CoVid in 2021 (or 2022) with a new travel approach. And I think the Builds, Ignites, Oracle Open World, VMWware's thing, PASS Summit will suffer most. This is all available online and regionally.
So PASS should be what we love them for - a community led and driven organization that fosters collaboration and learning. This doesn't require a big national event or gigantic budget. To me this looks like - a "small Central governing body" called PASS - this group helps inspire collaboration among regional and national volunteers throughout the world. They can do things that are volunteer driven like build a speaker bureau finally, help put sponsors in touch with user groups, help encourage user groups, give advice, and solicit feedback and ideas. Maybe it has a small budget and is funded by donation from regional PASS groups so we can have shared registration for events and shared "kits" to help run local events and "Bigger regional events".
Have regional groups that have more regional power. They can help get smaller User Groups going. They can help organize SQL Saturdays perhaps. But maybe 3-4 times a year there is a larger SQL Rally sized event (or even a bit bigger) in a corner of the world or nation (and maybe there is a US PASS and a PASS per region of the world at the right division size). This event draws the big national speakers. This event draws Microsoft (but a bit less than Summit would) This event has the "What Microsoft wants to tell you about the future" keynote by speakers we all love. And the Central PASS helped plan these out so they are strategically placed on the calendar and on the map and in a way that Microsoft marketing approves.
The central budget becomes a lot smaller because we don't need a management company who also needs us - at least not of the size we need today. The benefit to Microsoft and national sponsors still exists - because you get in front of eyes. And nationally - perhaps the volunteer board in the center can help do things like run GroupBy or something like it to help curate the content for it.
But far more volunteer driven. Far less "Do all the things to point to Summit attendance" driven. The budget needs go down, but the budget spend spreads to more corners. And this national group can even do things like solicit representatives to focus groups and surveys and actually do strong advocacy to Microsoft about the direction of the Data Platform.
It's not pretty for C&C, and I really do feel bad about that. But I think it's time for "Ma bell" to break up. I really think we're seeing the days of a big national event as the main thing fading. And it was happening anyway, CoVid only sped that up.