PASS Summit 2012-Board Q&A

For the few past few years the Board has scheduled time to take questions from members at the Summit. This year I got to be on the question side of the fence which was a nice change.  It was scheduled for 9:45 on Friday. Not the best time because it was up against sessions, including one from Dr Dewitt, but to be fair there is no good time. There were at most 20 people in the room to ask questions or just listen. Room setup wasn’t bad, the Board members all seated on a slightly raised platform on high tv producer/director type chairs.

Now, on to some notes.

  • There was no moderator, so some questions seemed to last a long time. Valuable discussions, but with limited time a moderator is useful to keep things on track.
  • Both sides forgot at times that it’s not possible to get to a final answer or convince one side or the other of the rightness of an answer in 5 minutes or less. Moderator!
  • Lots of discussion about the global growth plans to assign Board seats to regions.
    • It was great that this was mentioned in the keynote and there has been as much communication on this as I’ve seen (good)
    • It was bad that we couldn’t get the proposed changes and read them prior to this. I’d have loved a dedicated session just for this one item.
  • We had an attendee who has asked for multiple years to volunteer at the Summit, but no one ever calls him. Supposed to get fixed this year with Sri taking on the newly rehydrated Volunteer portfolio.
  • The Board struggled to explain the target job titles for the upcoming Business Analytics conference. Some of that is not having a refined message rather than not knowing. Still, it’s concerning that a brand new event 6 months out doesn’t have that message done. [I have concerns about how successful the first event will be with such a short launch period, but we’ll see.]
  • It didn’t seem like the Board had reviewed the notes from the Q&A last year. Holy cow. This can’t be a night before review. This should be work assigned and worked on throughout the year and periodically reviewed.
  • I asked about why portfolios weren’t assigned in time for the Summit and got a so-so answer. Big reason we have pushed elections to be done before the Summit is to get those new faces integrated with the Board quickly. I know it’s hard to figure out where to put everyone, trying to figure out the matrix of skills, interests,and time left on the Board,but in my view this has to be done before the Summit. I think this will continue to be a problem until the Board formalizes a process to be applied and puts that date on the calendar as a key deliverable post-election.
  • I asked about the future of SQLRally and didn’t get a good answer at first – SQLRally alive and well internationally, but I’m asking about in the US. Board has agreed to put it on the agenda for January and make a decision. Also found out that rather than losing money the Dallas SQLRally generated a $29k profit. $30k one way or the other not the reason to continue or not in my view, but it’s nice to know (in particular for Team Dallas) that they didn’t kill the franchise by losing money. At the same time we were told the event reconciliation is still not done. So is it $29k or not? And why does it take 6 months to reconcile a 500 person event?
  • I asked the Board to announce before the 2013 Summit the criteria they would use for determining if it was a success, because that will get used to decide if the Summit ever moves out of Seattle again. I don’t think we have a definition of success for the Summit other than attendance/expo sales, maybe time to revisit that. In any case, if they do this it will be transparent – and we east coasters can engage to try to make it a success based on the criteria!
  • I asked about the state of financial reserves (also mentioned vaguely in the keynote) and didn’t get a great answer, but expecting a follow up that should fix that. Reserves are/should be money that is set aside for the long term health of the organization – basically to provide a fall back in case of disaster. Right now it seems like its on the order of $500k, which would cover perhaps one half year of HQ salary/expenses – not enough. Remember that the Summit funds everything, if one has to be cancelled due to storm or terrorism there is insurance, but it takes a really long time to get the check. Without sufficient reserves we might have to lay off key staff and with them all the experience/knowledge we rely on. I want to be able to look at the financials every year and see clearly that the reserve number going up. I’ll be following up on this because I think that number is lower than I expected. I also want to see a policy that requires the Board to vote to use funds explicitly tagged as reserves.
  • Question about 501c3 status for chapters. There is still no guidance on this, supposedly because its different in each state. I don’t care that its hard – figure this out. Figure out in one state and go from there. May I suggest Florida?
  • Question about being able to call it “SQLSaturday Connecticut” instead of “SQLSaturday New Haven”. Seems reasonable to me, was going to be worked on after the meeting.

Overall I thought it went well and that some valuable information was exchanged. I wish for more questions, more discussion. Part of that is getting done at the Tuesday Chapter and SQLSaturday meetings (grow those even more, they are powerful), but why isn’t every portfolio having one of those meetings? Why doesn’t each Board member schedule public time(s) to meet and take questions/ask questions? I wish for more attendees, but I know that there is no really good time that won’t have something more interesting competing for their time.

Hoping that we see the full minutes published and then follow up answers to supplement it.