PASS Update #33

It’s been almost a month since my last update, too long! I’ve put up separate posts on my unplanned and off the cuff voting booth project, trying to give PASS a better solution for voting this year than we had last year. A good 10 hour project to get a minimal solution done, now just a matter of trying it out to see if it’s good enough!

I’ve wrapped my work on trying to move the election process forward a step or two this year. Last year we definitely had some sore spots, so we did a lot of work to try to find ways to do it better this year, setting guidelines for the nominating committee to follow with regards to transparency. It’s funny how much work there is when you try to really build a solid process. For example, what if there is a tie for votes during the election? Or a three way tie? How much can we share about candidate interviews without making it punitive if they do badly? How does that weigh against the need for our members to see that the nominating committee did a fair evaluation? No easy answers, but I think we’re in better condition than last year and that’s a win. Incremental improvements are worth doing. Now it’s up to immediate Past President Wayne Snyder to put together the nominating committee and drive the process through the election. Expect more news soon.

We’re still working on the 2011 budget which begins July 1st. It’s definitely not quite as simple as copy over the budget from last year, and I don’t envy Bill Graziano having to reconcile all the various wishes and demands. Basically we vote to approve a budget, and then we try to run the year based on that allocation. Budget exceptions are frowned on, shows lack of planning and worse, they take up valuable time, so it’s important to try to get it right the first time. One of many challenges with that is that we have to base our budget on a projection of earnings (just like a real business!) and if that changes substantially, we either have to cut spending, or decide what to do with a pleasantly unexpected surplus. We tend towards conservative on budgeting, which I think is good, but that also means we force ourselves into more budget talks once we see how much money we have. This year we’re trying to try (sorry) something different, a tiered budget. The base budget contains a very conservative set of expectations, and then we add a layer or two on top of that for a more realistic case, and then for a very good case. That allows us to say that if we hit certain goals, we can then release funding for stuff that has been pre-approved. More importantly for me, it helps us really set a strategy with all our goals in mind and lets us prioritize them up front. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m almost ready to restart the speaker bureau project. It’s been disappointing to have to postpone it, and it looks like it’s almost through the IT review process now (which I should have started earlier). It’s definitely going to be a challenge to get done by the Summit as I’ve just added another large project to my portfolio (news on that in the next few days!), but I’m excited about both projects and think they are both worth doing.

Turning to SQLSaturday, we’ve got a change happening that was unexpected, Blythe Morrow has decided to leave PASS HQ. Blythe has been our community person and also took on SQLSaturday, definitely going to miss her presence! At the same time it’s been a good opportunity to take a second look at how we’ve distributed the workload for SQLSaturday at HQ and I think we’ve got some good improvements in the works there. I’m doing a phone meeting with the HQ team next week to talk about the vision for SQLSaturday through 2011, things like first class documentation for events, setting a goal of at least one SQLSat in every state, and working on an international plan (a big gap right now).

Overall the feedback I’ve gotten from the last few events is that we haven’t screwed anything up with the hand off to PASS. That may sound like faint praise, but I think it’s a great step. We’re still in the transition phase but if we can do the things I have in mind, we’re going to touch a lot more people than ever before next year. It’s an interesting project to try to use the “empower” buzzword and mean it – but I think that is what it takes to really be a grass roots organization.

That’s all for this time, but I’ll have another update soon. Have a question or comment about this, or PASS? Comment here, or email me, would love to hear your thoughts.