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PASS Plan Potentials

In my blog post yesterday, I answered Andy Warren’s call to talk about where PASS can be improved by asking what would happen if PASS closed its doors. In the comments, Andy asked a good question, “On #1, I know what you mean but how would you implement it?” He was referring to my list of some things I thought PASS could do better. Item number was was:

Community – Focus on it. Build it. Drive it from those who are already centers in the community, not from a board or organization down.

That question got me thinking about what I’ve been saying for a while. We need a proper mission statement and goals. I think that is what some of Andy’s exercise is with his question. I talked a bit about this in an earlier post (What Should PASS Be And Do?) but in an effort to try and make sure I am constructive here I wanted to take a stab on what I think could make up the mission of PASS. This isn’t set in stone and I am sure you have better ideas and I look forward to hearing them but to me the four things that should make up our mission are below in my random thoughts about what PASS should be…

PASS Should Strive To Be:

  1. A Community of People Passionate About SQL Server – This should be our overarching mission. The three below are all borne out of this but other ways this mission could be explored/grown:
    • Focus Groups for Microsoft – The MVPs have a voice in the direction of SQL Server and they do a decent job there, but more partnership between Microsoft and PASS on getting the opinions of members heard in larger numbers may help. What a great way to quickly find people by skill set, SQL Server feature interest, etc. to run surveys by. To run invite only focus events by, etc. (of course we’d have to a much better job grabbing demographic information from our members but we should anyway for UG and local/regional event promotion)
    • Speaker Development – Improve the speaker bureau, focus on helping newer speakers grow and give them an opportunity to get out there more for events in their area or online events.
    • What was wrong with the PASS magazine? I know it was tried a few times. I am curious why it failed each time. I know it wasn’t the people running it. Is it because of overload on blogs, technical articles, whitepapers, etc. What other avenues can we have to get great content to people? No PASS shouldn’t become another blog syndicator. I like the community connector newsletter. Maybe a blogger of the month, maybe try and revive articles/whitepapers/etc. Maybe give non-MVP community members the opportunity to work with Microsoft product team members in creating PASS and Microsoft authorized content to really take the academic knowledge and real world experience melded together to create useful content to members only? Great advertising for MS. Great value for PASS members and great growth opportunity for those working on the content. Maybe these types of projects and collaborations could revive the PASS magazine and even cause a reason to charge a nominal membership to help increase revenues a bit. Though… We live in a day of free content EVERYWHERE, so maybe that won’t work. Hard to say.
    • How Do We Get Known? – I don’t know but how do we get managers of database professionals to know what PASS is? How do we get them to want their people to join? How do we get more people to ask about PASS membership in an interview? I think focusing on missions like the ones I propose (or others propose.. these are just random thoughts) gives more credibility and weight. Maybe even charging for membership a small fee helps. Sponsoring events like below. Somehow reaching out to managers of technology professionals with resources. Maybe providing connectors for consultants or help with interviewing SQL professionals, partnering with MS on their SQL certifications, etc. We should study some other groups that are known by employers (SANS?) and membership in counts.
  2. A Provider of Premier Regional Training Events –
    • More SQL Rally Events – Especially if the upcoming one is a success.
    • SQL Saturday In a Box – Take the best practices from successful SQL Saturdays, narrow the list of speakers and maybe help produce SQL Saturdays at the local level of a smaller scale? The 250/300 person SQL Saturdays with national speakers coming in are great. I am happy to be working on one like that. But what can PASS do to create smaller, local SQL Saturdays? It would be nice to make it so it is easier to organize one in a smaller area or sub region. I may try and run a smaller, more locally focused one in NH in late 2011 or early 2012 after learning a lot on the one I am helping with. I think we really take the lessons and make a structured SQL Saturday option. I know the freedom for organizers is a benefit of the current setup but sometimes that freedom can make things more complicated and increase the effort and time in planning. Maybe a more structured with more help from HQ or RMs option for smaller events will work?
    • Road Shows/Local Pay Events/MS Partner Events – The SQL Saturdays are great and I am happy that PASS is all for them. User Groups are great as well and I am happy that PASS wants to help them out more. I wonder if there is any room to partner with MS to put on roadshow type events, lab times, etc? Microsoft has space in most regions for these and PASS has community based speakers with content to share. Maybe an opportunity to partner with MS Presales or Support could be a way to get PASS out there more. Maybe even some local paid events on weekdays with revenue shares between PASS and the Speakers. Good way to get speakers out there and grow, good way to drive a little revenue for PASS and a good way to get to some folks who may not take a Saturday to learn for free (they exist, folks) but would take time away from their day job to attend a paid seminar.
  3. The Host of the World’s Largest (and best) Gathering of SQL Server Professionals – We do this well. Really well. We could work on location a bit more (though I don’t know where I stand on it. I am biased by the Sushi in Seattle and the fact that I like visiting Seattle but I’d love to get home sooner to the family every so often without having to take a red eye, but if I don’t sacrifice some time someone from another region will have to…) Really work hard on the Orientation Committee (get more people involved in the community and make this be their first of many PASS events, maybe highlight volunteering and the organization better in the keynotes? Not come volunteer but give more examples of what PASS has done for folks careers there’s an idea.. maybe a series of posts and keynotes about PASS’ impact on people’s growth and careers with a marketing twist that managers and employees would appreciate? Continue to develop ATE, Birds of Feather lunches, Community rah rah events, etc. Through all the other initiatives we focus on growing our numbers and that in turn grows our event attendance. I would love to be at a size where the battle over “To Seattle or not to Seattle” becomes a pointless discussion because we are too big to be in Seattle.
  4. A Resource to SQL Server Professionals Everywhere – I think everything above really fits here. Have side benefits from a membership, even a paid membership tier. Through partnerships with training partners, consulting firms for reduced price entry to services, more virtual labs, private MS roadshow events for PASS members, advanced training, PASS sponsored paid Masters training, etc. Not help forums or blog syndication. There are folks who do that well already but what else can we do to make ourselves a must use resource if they want to take their SQL Server career to the next level and prove to employers and potential employers that they take their career that seriously?

Wow.. 1400+ words already. I write.long.posts… Sorry I’ll stop now but that is what I think makes up a potential mission and some ways to implement the specifics. What do you think?

Article by Mike Walsh

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2 thoughts on “PASS Plan Potentials”

  1. More good stuff Mike. I’m with you on most of your list. The magazine…maybe we (I) didn’t try hard enough, but being in the content business is tough, especially when it’s web only and you’re trying to build premium level content. Out of the ways we can serve right now, I don’t think this is the place to put effort. That said, I think the day may come when we can go back and do with a deeper budget and staffing.

    I’ll think on the rest!


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