My 2013 PASS Suggestion Tsunami List

Back in August I posted about an approach that Aaron Nelson and I thought of to try to get more ideas and suggestions into general circulation with regards to PASS and the SQL community – in short, designate a ‘suggestion day’. We only lightly evangelized the idea so it will be interesting to see how it works this year and if it’s a seed that will grow to be something bigger in the years to come.

In my list below you’ll see some little ideas and some big ones, some that are doable and some that perhaps are. My experience tells me that not all of these will be useful or acted up on and that’s okay. My experience also tells me that I’ve never had an idea that wasn’t made better by someone else picking it up, challenging it, even just talking about it.

  • PASS/Community Store. This was something I tried to get done in my first term on the Board and just couldn’t get done (as silly as that sounds). It’s funny that I have far more SQLSaturday branded items and apparel than I do PASS. I like wearing SQL stuff and I’m happy to promote the PASS brand where I can – and I’m willing to pay for some stuff to do it!
  • License the PASS logos. Think of this as a follow on to the Store idea, let’s make the logos available to craftspeople everywhere – think of what we might find on Etsy if we did this! Maybe it all gets sold through the store, maybe there a licensing fee, I don’t know.
  • More Job/Career Focus. PASS still doesn’t have strong relationships with the major recruiting firms. No idea how often people are placed via chapter meetings and SQLSaturday. Maybe this is career coaching, maybe it’s coaching the recruiting firms too. I don’t want to reduce the technical focus, we should grow the pie. We might get more sponsor dollars at the Summit too.
  • Stop saying PASS. I’m not the first one the mention this, but say “PASS” to anyone outside of the community is just another acronym. We should be so well known that the other groups (Exchange, Sharepoint, blah, blah) are asking why don’t we have that?
  • Third Party Audit. PASS has its finances audited every year, that’s good stuff. The challenge is that year over year the auditors get comfortable and they see it as good steady work, sometimes not inclined to rock the boat. I’d like to see a third party audit every 3-5 years to make sure the normal auditor is doing a good job and to challenge the status quo.
  • Build and Publish Reserves Clearly. It’s incredibly important that PASS have sufficient reserves to survive a cancelled or failed Summit. Even though the event is insured it can take a year or more to get the check and we have operations to run in the interim. That number might need to be as high as $2 million and we’re short of that. There is some amount in reserves now, but it’s hard to see. I want to see the goal and on hand reserve number published in big letters every year, and I want to see a Board policy that clearly describes how the reserve is built and managed (and in particular, I’d like to see it require a super majority vote to draw funds from it at any time).
  • Consider Moving PASS Inc to Delaware. We pay a lot of taxes each year, we should take a look at moving to state with a lower tax burden than Illinois.
  • Hire Employees. Right now PASS is managed by a management company based in Canada. That’s an ok plan for now, but what happens when the owner retires or is hit by a bus? I’m in favor of moving them all onto the PASS payroll and doing the work (unglamorous) to insure the long term health of the organization.
  • Publish the results and budget over/under by portfolio. I want to see if the portfolios used the funds that were allocated and if they were used as planned (note that it’s ok in some cases to adjust goals, I just want to see the spend). This is more an enhancement to reporting than a change to operations.
  • Use Word Press for the PASS blog. It’s long past time to do this!
  • Notify on New Minutes/Documents via the PASS blog. Just a quick post to make it easier for the members to see that there is new content, at least governance related content.
  • Spouse Admittance Policy at Paid Events. I think this is already in progress, but we should have a way for a spouse to see a speaker present as well as attend some of the on premises social functions.
  • Highlight SQLSaturday Event Leaders & Teams. Event teams do a lot of work, but it’s not always obvious even to the attendees who did the work and how much. At a higher level I’d like to see more visibility into who led the various events – and perhaps have them sent an official PASS thank you note!
  • Speaker Bureau. This a project I started and then had to give back because I had too much on my plate (a good decision then, but it still remains undone). I want one place to manage my events, my presentations, and my evals. SQLSaturday has made  it easier, but it needs to be moved up the tree so that it one system works for all events.
  • Sponsor Bureau. We need to give our sponsors the same kind of first class tools that we want to give to our speakers. Talk about kicking it up a notch!
  • Upgrade the PASS site. Shouldn’t it look at good as the SQLSaturday site?
  • Chapter Tools. I know Allen Kinsel made some progress on this last year, but this should be a top priority until the tools Chapter leaders have are better than the SQLSaturday tools (which would make them pretty good).
  • PASS Leader Training. I’d like to see PASS offer a seminar the Summit as well as one hour presentations at SQLSaturday for those that want to work on committees and someday the PASS Board.
  • First class support for one day seminars. Let’s make it easy to host a one day seminar (free or $99) at the chapter level, and also for areas that don’t have chapters. Tools and ability to market effectively are key items.
  • SQLSaturday in Every State/Country. Tell me why we aren’t having at least one event in every US state? What about every country? PASS Board, you want to see a vision for growth, here it is.
  • Change Officers to a One Year Term. Officers are for the most part ‘first among equals’ on the Board, something I agree with. I’d like to see more people get a chance at leading for a year, and more fresh ideas. The resistance to this has always been that it encourages short term thinking, but that is just blah – combine a five year plan with a good Board and short term thinking is not a risk. The real risk is that by time someone progresses to President there is no gas in the tank.
  • Announce Portfolio Assignments Before the Summit. Elections are complete by then, so it’s an ideal time for a new Board member (or new Portfolio owner) to connect with the volunteers and members most involved in that Portfolio. For the last few years we’ve had a SQLSaturday Round Table at the Summit, a great way to share ideas and pain. If the portfolio leader is going to change they have to be there.
  • Portfolios + Committees. Right now each Board member has a portfolio, essentially a chunk of budget and some core responsibilities. They end up as the manager and often the doer, a system that keeps them focused on short term, keeps them from investing more time in strategy and long view thinking, and it doesn’t do a good job of leveraging volunteers (and by doing so, training the next generation of leaders). I’d like to see a Board member as the chair of their portfolio committee and as the number two on at least one other committee, plus 3-5 volunteers. Post plans, post minutes. Think it won’t work? Look at the Program Committee, Nominations Committee, and the Election Review Committee.
  • Five and Ten Year Plans. Most successful businesses do this, we should too. No one can predict the future, but it’s useful to have a
    roadmap based on what you want to happen. Revisit every year or every other year.
  • Compare to Other Similar Organizations. We should measure ourselves against other non-profits (even though from a tax perspective we’re not quite not-for-profit) to see how we compare and to see what we can learn (are we staffed appropriately for example – skills, salary, focus). Isn’t it funny that we act like an island when we know that engaging with others doing similar kinds of work is always win-win?
  • Summary of Votes. I’d like to see an updated list each year of every vote taken by the PASS Board and how everyone voted. I’d like to be well informed when I decided whether to re-hire someone at the next election.
  • Change PASS Officers to Require Being Elected. You might not know that once someone becomes an officer (VP and up) they no longer stand for election. It’s hard for me to see how that is a good thing. I’m trying to keep this brief, but in general I believe they should run for election every two years, but still have the Board elect its own officers each year from within the Board.
  • Dream Bigger Dreams & Do More Good For the Member. PASS has what every non-profit dreams of, a solid fund raiser in the form of the Summit. That’s great, but it shouldn’t be the end of the dreaming. We need to dream of more than aiming for x% growth at the Summit (worth doing). It’s thinking about how to have a positive impact on anyone that chooses to join PASS, though maybe I should say more of a positive impact. The way to get there is to ask the question at every level, not just the PASS Board – how can we do more good? PASS can, collectively, change a part of the world, if we are willing to try.

Let me know what you think and I hope you post a list of your own.

2 thoughts on “My 2013 PASS Suggestion Tsunami List

  1. I’m just going to throw one idea out there:

    A couple of nominated non-voting seats on the board. That might sound a little strange, but there are a lot of people out there with great thoughts and ideas. Some of these people do not have the relevant qualifications or background to be able to pass muster and make it on to the regular ballot. Then it is nigh on impossible to get their voices heard. This would provide a different voice who could bring things to the table, but not have a vote so they don’t impact changes.


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