The PASS BA Conference–Good Idea or Not?

Ever since it was announced I’ve been ambivalent about the PASS Business Analytics Conference. I believe PASS should look for places to grow the community and the craft. I believe PASS should take some risks and endure the occasional loss (as long as it is not a bet the company kind of risk). I believe SQL Server is more than just DBA’s and performance tuning, at least if you define it as most of us do by what “ships in the box” when you buy SQL Server. I believe that there is room for a second conference related to SQL in the calendar year without hurting the PASS Summit. Yet, I remain ambivalent. Why is that?

I think it started with the name. To me BA = Business Analyst, so the whole name was just a exercise in dissonance. But even assuming it was just me, what market were we trying to satisfy? What group of people were being under served by the PASS Summit? What were the job titles of people that would pay to attend and what product did they use (because if it’s not SQL Server, why is the Professional Association of SQL Server doing it?). I’ve never been opposed to having some Hadoop, Sharepoint, and whatever else that is often connected to and intermingled with the work we do with SQL Server, but I go to the Summit because the core theme is SQL Server. What is the core theme of PASS BA? I’m not sure.

By comparison, a PASS BI Summit would have been easier to describe, easier to justify. We already have a few BI chapters and we’ve had a few SQLSaturday BI editions, we would build on that easily. Will we have BA chapters and SQLSaturday BA editions? To be fair communities can be built top down (having the big BA event first) or bottom up,and sometimes you have to let things grow to see.

As a PASS member I want to see PASS serve the members well. Clearly the members are more diverse than just DBA’s that tune queries,but aren’t we serving them at our events already? I’m not a BI/BA/big data guy, so I don’t have that view. If we’re not, we should fix it – as long as it falls within that core theme of SQL Server.

These are all concerns I voiced at the Summit, along with a key question – what defines success of this event? What will make the PASS Board decide to have another one, or not? It feels like that decision will be based on attendance and sponsors – surely a starting point, but maybe there will/should be more to it than that. Since then I’ve worried about other questions – is this event changing the direction of PASS in a way that is good for PASS, and is it taking away resources from things that need attention – chapter tools for example? Writing this I wish I could see the roadmap, where is PASS going?

I don’t envy the PASS Board. I want them to take risks and try new things, then I complain about the new things they try. I don’t see that as unfair, but I can appreciate the irony in it.

For all my ambivalence, I’d like to see it succeed. If it does, then I think the Board needs to publish that roadmap so we can all see what the organization would look like in two and five years. I haven’t decided about attending yet. Chicago in April isn’t exactly warm compared to Florida. I can surely learn something there, it wouldn’t be a wasted trip, and it would be interesting to be there at the first one – in particular I’m curious to see how the culture and feel of the event compares or differs from the other PASS events. Ambivalent on attending too!

3 thoughts on “The PASS BA Conference–Good Idea or Not?

  1. I agree about the name… I would have paid more attention up-front if it was PASS BI Conference or PASS Analytics Conference.
    To me, “BA” means Business Analyst, and that isn””””t usually associated with a SQL Server profession. However, after reading all of the session content, I am attending and expect to gain quite a bit from it.


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