The Future Direction of the PASS Organization

  • todd.kleinhans-716255

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 122

    My .02.

    Have Microsoft create a legally separate for-profit organization: Microsoft Data Professionals (MDP). Focus is on Azure. Paid membership would require X number of hours per year of successfully taking and passing MS developed Azure roles/courses, similar to other professional organizations. Exclusive access to beta content (signed NDA(s)), new software, discounted cert exams, discounted MS conferences, $1000 free Azure credits/month, etc. Fees would subsidizes book authors. Hosted or run out of MS offices worldwide when possible. Paid Zoom/Teams accounts for local organizers. A single and consistent user group software like https://www.bevy.com/ - no more of this fractured Google Hangouts, dotnetnuke, one-off websites, Meetup only presence, etc. GitHub only for code & presentations. Consistent by-laws for all user groups. A return to a data code of conduct. Data = ALL relevant platforms being used in business; SQL Server, MariaDB, PostgreSQL- it has to be anything that can be successfully hosted in Azure. This organization would be marketed to non-MS people who are the main membership of PASS. It would eventually replace PASS. The current management organization would be given the option to be acquired as MS employees and all IP and customer lists transferred to MS. Some of those executive and employees would stay and adapt and some would leave. In any mergers and acquisition (M&A), that is to be expected.

    Is it time for a clean slate, new blood, and a new approach? PASS is the thing that has gotten us to the thing. I have been a member of PASS for several years and have also served on the board of the Denver SQL Server Group for six years and have seen a lot of things change over the years, some good, and some not so good. MDP would be that new thing to take MS-focused data professionals into the future.

    Again my .02 but I've often wondered if PASS goes out of business, what will take its place? M&A happens all the time and if Microsoft wanted to acquire and re-structure and streamline things, what would it look like? How much would it cost and what would it take and how long would it take? How will it make money beyond just paying for itself in membership fees? For me that looks like a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft that would eventually replace PASS over time and get into all data platforms with an emphasis on Azure.

  • sknox

    SSChampion

    Points: 12292

    This sounds like a nightmare.

    One of the strengths of PASS, in my opinion, has been that while Microsoft is involved, the organization itself is largely free from being controlled by Microsoft. Furthermore, the grass-roots nature of the community means that there is flexibility -- each group can determine the best solution for individual needs, but the community can come together items which need consistency (e.g, SQL Saturday website.) Where you see fractured solutions, I see diversity of thought and freedom to choose. Autonomy at the group level is, in my opinion, a feature and not a bug.

    Replacing PASS with a Microsoft-owned organization with such strict gatekeeping and authoritarian standards would turn away myself, and from my understanding, a lot of other PASS members.

    The part I do agree with is expanding from SQL Server-specific to all data platforms. This makes sense given the fact that most of us are or will eventually be working with data in more than just SQL Server, but if we do that, why chain ourselves to Azure? If we're creating a new data platform agnostic association, make it infrastructure platform agnostic as well: an Association of Data Management Professionals.

    todd.kleinhans-716255 wrote:

    My .02.

    Have Microsoft create a legally separate for-profit organization: Microsoft Data Professionals (MDP). Focus is on Azure. Paid membership would require X number of hours per year of successfully taking and passing MS developed Azure roles/courses, similar to other professional organizations. Exclusive access to beta content (signed NDA(s)), new software, discounted cert exams, discounted MS conferences, $1000 free Azure credits/month, etc. Fees would subsidizes book authors. Hosted or run out of MS offices worldwide when possible. Paid Zoom/Teams accounts for local organizers. A single and consistent user group software like https://www.bevy.com/ - no more of this fractured Google Hangouts, dotnetnuke, one-off websites, Meetup only presence, etc. GitHub only for code & presentations. Consistent by-laws for all user groups. A return to a data code of conduct. Data = ALL relevant platforms being used in business; SQL Server, MariaDB, PostgreSQL- it has to be anything that can be successfully hosted in Azure. This organization would be marketed to non-MS people who are the main membership of PASS. It would eventually replace PASS. The current management organization would be given the option to be acquired as MS employees and all IP and customer lists transferred to MS. Some of those executive and employees would stay and adapt and some would leave. In any mergers and acquisition (M&A), that is to be expected.

    Is it time for a clean slate, new blood, and a new approach? PASS is the thing that has gotten us to the thing. I have been a member of PASS for several years and have also served on the board of the Denver SQL Server Group for six years and have seen a lot of things change over the years, some good, and some not so good. MDP would be that new thing to take MS-focused data professionals into the future.

    Again my .02 but I've often wondered if PASS goes out of business, what will take its place? M&A happens all the time and if Microsoft wanted to acquire and re-structure and streamline things, what would it look like? How much would it cost and what would it take and how long would it take? How will it make money beyond just paying for itself in membership fees? For me that looks like a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft that would eventually replace PASS over time and get into all data platforms with an emphasis on Azure.

  • alex.yates

    Valued Member

    Points: 57

    I'm happy to chip in to sponsor the SQL Saturday website too.

  • Diligentdba 46159

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1202

    'One of the strengths of PASS, in my opinion, has been that while Microsoft is involved, the organization itself is largely free from being controlled by Microsoft.' This is what i try to tell younger people. Back in the days of ineta and times when msft OWNED every user group for their product - we were the only bold brave crowd that ran our chapters and stood back from being owned by them entirely. It wasn't an easy challenge.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 720371

    I would be concerned about Microsoft taking over an org, as they can be finicky in how they do so. I've worked with way too many "community" reps from them in the past, who change positions often.

     

    I think it is time to re-examine what PASS does, what it costs, and what we want. Not necessarily evolving what's there, but looking at what we really want from a community org.

  • Diligentdba 46159

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1202

    This year atleast, if they have to survive a significant bailout from Microsoft may be needed. And that may not be for free. I don't see anyone else coming in to bail them out , and a paid virtual summit may get people, based on how we as volunteers push it to some extent but not to the extent needed to save the show. Lets wait and see.

  • mike_walsh

    Right there with Babe

    Points: 741

    I posted a long (Surprised?) blog post about this since my "more raw" twitter thread was 'invoked' at the top here 🙂 It's here - http://mikewalsh.me/2020/06/20/pass-ponderings/

    I wonder if PASS is sort of a relic, if you will, of the era the organization came from...

    This may be a wrong view - but I'd say PASS is primarily "The Summit called PAS Summit" to me. And to most of the folks who think of PASS. In fact, if you asked the folks who attend the Summit "What is PASS to you?" (before the keynotes outlining all the other things) you'd probably in a roundabout way end up with "This event". Possibly "The local user group" or "SQL Saturday".

    At the end of the day - PASS really "isn't" the local user group. They helped kick start them. But they aren't vital to them right now - ours (embarrassingly) only really breezes through the slides sometimes and exists to get a comp to the Summit. We don't get money, speakers, attendees, etc from the "mother ship" and we'll likely divest from PASS at some point.

    __________________________________________________

    Mike Walsh
    SQL Server DBA
    Blog - www.straightpathsql.com/blog |Twitter

  • mike_walsh

    Right there with Babe

    Points: 741

    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.

    __________________________________________________

    Mike Walsh
    SQL Server DBA
    Blog - www.straightpathsql.com/blog |Twitter

  • Diligentdba 46159

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1202

    I love the idea of divestiture and giving more power to local groups. And certification, is a big yes although that would be really hard to implement and keep going. And yes, maybe its time to forego the yearly big party as well. The only thing i struggle with is , is that party the only thing we'r going to miss? PASS gave me a platform where I was seen, as a woman and as a POC. There are many minorities who think the opposite of PASS , and want them to do more for diversity, I can see that and I agree. Perhaps I was lucky, I don't know. But I don't think i could have gotten that visibility without them. Also the US is enormously diverse. Not like Europe where each country has smaller events that do great and people are happy doing it. If we go down to smaller events without an umbrella, the visibility there will be limited to those who know those organizers and local people. I have run an R user group with no affiliation, I know how that works. Getting visibility is very hard, even if you are an organizer there. That is the one thing above all that I fear losing.

  • Diligentdba 46159

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1202

    One thing they did well was to give us props/badges to help identify what we do. I've written a blog post here on how that has helped me. I will miss that if they go under. It definitely helped me promoting myself for jobs.

    https://curiousaboutdata.com/2020/06/22/being-seen-and-why-pass-helped/

  • Grant Fritchey

    SSC Guru

    Points: 396613

    Regarding "the big party". I assume you all mean the Thursday party that for many years was a fixture of Summit?

    That event was always hosted by Microsoft. It was never hosted by the PASS organization. Not once. Microsoft decided that they didn't want to do it any more. Not PASS. PASS didn't take it from you. Microsoft did.

    So, what did we, PASS, do? With the help of the community, and it was the community leading, we secured, and paid for, a space for Games Night (not the food or drinks, we just couldn't afford it, remember, this was an added cost, nothing occurs within the confines of a convention center that isn't paid for). There was a bunch of other stuff too. Other vendors stepped up and moved several of their parties to Thursday night (from Wednesday & Friday). We filled the gap as best we were able. In fact, as many people who complain about the loss of the party on Thursday (which again, wasn't our doing), we get an equal number thanking us for having an alternative.

    There's an interesting question though. If the "big party" was to come back. Microsoft, AWS, someone, decided to throw one for everyone who wanted to attend, should we? If we do, do we directly compete with the vendor who so nicely invited everyone to their event by continuing Games Night and other stuff? I don't know. That's something we'd have to explore.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...
    Theodore Roosevelt

    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2017 Query Performance Tuning, 5th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

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