The End of the BAC–Why?

In a post titled The Future of the BA Community PASS announced that there would be no Business Analytics conference in 2017 and that the new strategy would be multi pronged, focused on local groups and events. I’ve never been a fan of the concept of the BAC so it was with mixed emotions I read the announcement that was presumably intentionally vague, along the lines of ‘left to pursue other opportunities’.  We’re pulling the plug after 4 tries, good – sometimes that’s necessary. But why did it fail? The May 2016 Board minutes are all happy about the BAC, there was no signal that the event was struggling in any way. What went into the decision? I’d like to hear more about that. Are we serious about local events and what does that mean? PASS has been working on that strategy since December 2014.

I believe its ok for PASS (and all organizations) to take measured risks. Not all will work, that’s the nature of risks. Taking risks means talking about the risks and considering what the doubters doubt, then deciding whether to keep going, amend the strategy in some way, or kill the idea. I never felt like PASS talked about the risks or listened in a meaningful way to the ones (like me) that had concerns about the scope of the risk and the lack of a grass roots strategy. I’ve never felt that PASS was transparent about the success of the event with real data, not just gross revenue. Clearly there have been course corrections along the way, perhaps to the point there is nothing left to try – or is there?  Without knowing the details, it’s hard to know. I’ve said before that I think there is plenty of room for smaller, focused events. Why can’t BAC be a 400 person event held at an Embassy Suites? What about the goal of building the BA community? What’s the vision for that? Do we expect to have BA Chapters – a question we’ve asked multiple times? Or, as is already happening, is just local chapters and events adding in various BI/BA content at their discretion and availability? Or was that just the post that closes out four years of zero sum effort?

I only mind a little that this failed. I mind a lot that we’ve spent 4+ years, added staff, spent money, and not done as could have been done for the PASS community that already exists. If you read the minutes over the past four years it has taken up a a lot of Board time and HQ resources. With BAC ending the Board can refocus (as is planned I’m sure) and we can also refocus HQ, which includes revisiting the staff assignments and perhaps making some adjustments there.

I think doing this was a tough decision that was made in the best interests of the organization. I’m not interested in criticizing the path that got us here, but I’d like very much to make sure we’ve learned the lessons from it.  We can’t just talk openly about our successes. We need to make sure the next generation of leaders learn about successes and failures and risks, and how we handle that within our community. I’d also like to see an open discussion about where we go next. How will we serve our existing members better? How will we support the small but growing communities that use R and PowerBI? How will this decision affect Board portfolios and the PASS budget? I hope we have that conversation.