Conferences have 4 parts:
- The attendees
- The material
- The speakers
- The organization
Problem 1: PASS Doesn’t Have Enough Analytics Speakers or Content.
PASS tried running a couple of business analytics (BA) conferences and got feedback from the attendees that the material wasn’t quite right. That’s because PASS’s traditional SQL-Server-focused membership doesn’t have enough presenters who can talk about real-world experience with cutting-edge analytics technologies.
As a result, PASS has decided to skip the community call for speakers and instead just approach BA speakers with money. Read the PASS Board meeting minutes (PDF) for more details, including juicy details about free hands-on labs for the BA conference attendees.
There’s nothing wrong with paying speakers – if your attendees are clamoring for content that you don’t have, sometimes you have to buy that content from others.
Problem 2: PASS Doesn’t Reach Enough Analytics Users.
The BA Conference targets different attendees than the PASS Summit, PASS’s annual international gathering of
SQL Server data professionals:
PASS hasn’t even been successful at defining what BA means, or comparing BA to BI. That screenshot above? It’s the 2014 conference attendee goal, and as PASS prepares to put on the 2015 version, they’re going to try yet again to mansplain what BA is supposed to mean. This time, “data scientists” are out, and some other buzzword will be in.
PASS does have some members who line up with those demographics, but not many. As a result, they’re going to have to pay out of pocket to reach analytics users wherever they’re at – buying advertising space and mailing lists from strangers. That’s one heck of an expensive way to start building a conference – and your Summit attendance registration fees are helping to pay for this.
Problem 3: PASS Isn’t the Right Organization to Run the BA Conference.
When you add up problems 1 and 2, that means PASS simply doesn’t have anything that a BA conference would need in order to be successful: the speakers, the content, or the attendees. It’s case closed, right? To drive the point home, read Chris Webb’s blog post about why PASS had to take SQL Server out of its name just to run a BA conference:
“The BA community is not, however, interested in being swallowed up by an organisation that identifies itself purely with the IT department. It is interested in joining an organisation that has IT focused people as a major component but which also recognises the importance of collaboration between IT and the business to work with data. This is why the PASS name change, and especially a separate BA conference, is important.”
You read that right – PASS had to change its name just to run this new conference.
UPDATE 23/9/2014 – In the comments, Chris Webb notes that he believes PASS has to change its name to “prove its good faith here and will help make the conference even more successful.” He does believe that the Professional Association for SQL Server could run a successful BA Conference without the name change, though. </update>
I’m not denying there’s a market for business analytics – but I firmly believe PASS has no business hosting that conference. It doesn’t have any assets that make a BA Conference work – but it won’t matter.
Why the BA Conference Will Happen, No Matter What
So why is PASS the organization to take on this seemingly unrelated BA/BI conference? Just take a look at the people who make the PASS decisions:
I’ll save you a few clicks:
- Adam Jorgensen – BI/BA consultant at Pragmatic Works
- Amy Lewis – BI/BA consultant at Catapult
- James Rowland-Jones – BI/BA consultant at The Big Bang Data Company
- Jen Stirrup – BI/BA consultant at Copper Blue
- Sri Sridharan – started the first BI SQLSaturday, and his PASS application says he wants to build more BA events
- Wendy Pastrick – consultant at Pragmatic Works (a BI-focused company)
If we had elected a group of developers, they’d have told us databases are dead, and we need to focus PASS on ORMs and NoSQL solutions. If we’d elected a group of systems administrators, they’d have told us physical servers are dead, and we need to focus PASS on virtualization.
When a group of BI/BA consultants get elected to run a SQL Server organization, rather than lowering Summit registration fees or paying PASS volunteer travel expenses, take SQL Server out of the group name, and plow your money into a new BA conference. They don’t see it as wrong because you sent them to the Board of Directors.
If you wanted a Professional Association for SQL Server, you should have thought of that before you elected an entire slate of BI/BA consultants to the Board.
Update 2016/07/28: Yep, as predicted, it failed, and it’s dead.
I’m thoroughly depressed now, thanks.
HAHAHA, live to serve.
Brent, you know I’m not a big fan of the name change, of the focus on more than just SQL Server, or with the closed nature of the “formerly known as BA Conference.” However, to your point about who is on the board, though, these *aren’t* primarily BI focused:
– Tom LaRock
– Denise McInerney
– Bill Graziano
Director at Large:
– Tim Ford
While I know that’s a 6-4 ratio, You would think that the folks on the Exec Committee would have the experience and knowledge to understand the risk and be able to argue against it successfully if they felt the conference wouldn’t be successful.
KBK – in theory, yes. In practice, groupthink happens when you make decisions behind closed doors with no input from the community.
What I tend to find is that almost-balance is insufficient to combat groupthink – what you really need is a firebrand contrarian, someone who is passionate enough to drag out all the subtleties and nuances of each decision. Unfortunately, none of the four you’ve mentioned fit that description. They’re fine folks, to be sure, but they don’t fit the bill for what is needed.
JK – bingo. This is one of the reasons I’m really excited that Grant Fritchey is running for a Board of Directors seat. He has the passion, plus the ability to hear both sides, plus the ability to bring them all together.
I also think James Rowland-Jones has these same abilities, too – I don’t want to sell him short – but he’s much more on the analytics side right now.
I’m also quite excited that Grant is running. He’s definitely going to make a positive difference on the board, and he’s got both the passion and the wisdom to work with the board. I think JRJ fits much of that mold as well.
That said, I think we need an (additional) nuclear option. I’ll be honest: We need a Brent Ozar, an Andy Warren, a Steve Jones, or an Allen Kinsel on the board. But we both know that isn’t happening, for one reason or another. And I certainly can’t fault the reasoning behind that.
JK, I appreciate the mention. Maybe someday I’ll run again, but work/family have priority now, being on the Board is just a bigger commitment than I can manage. That said, I wonder if nuclear is the only way, because it’s miserably hard within that room to be that person.
Andy, it definitely is hard to be that person. It’s not the kind of thing that you ask of someone lightly, and I don’t want to convey the idea that I’m expecting any of you to step up for it.
It’s rough. You can’t just rent the Batman.
I understand your concerns about points #1 and #2. Whilst I probably wouldn’t express them in that way I will say that I think we will end up with something different from the BAC as a result. I am ok with different. I am happy that PASS tries to be different. It’s difficult to do that with the Summit. That’s the bread and butter – that’s much tougher to experiment with. So even if we have failed I’ll be glad that we tried; that we didn’t give up at the first hurdle and we dared to be different. I sincerely hope that we don’t fail though; rather I hope we have continued to add diversity to the community both in our events, our portfolio of speakers and in our attendees.
Now onto the point that you have raised which I think is well made. That is the composition of the board. Back in our interview I said that Nom Com form and function needs to be overhauled. I also suggested that the Nom Com publishes a report documenting the strengths and weaknesses of the board. You have identified something here that shows imbalance. I would argue that it isn’t quite as extreme as you have projected (I am more Data Warehouse and Data Integration, Wendy does a lot of DBA so I think that was a bit of a stretch) but it there is a good argument here. I would personally prefer to see the Nom Com identify these issues ahead of time and then solicit applications to address these issues. Technical perspective is one such criteria – just remember a good board person isn’t the person who can write the best query…
Now it is not all doom and gloom. Whilst applications have closed the election hasn’t started. The electorate can choose to correct this by voting for the people that they believe will best represent them. Based on your assessments and prior comments I would expect you to be voting for Grant first. I am completely fine with that. You are exercising your vote in the best interests of the whole organisation. Fantastic. I hope others will take the same amount of time when considering how they will vote as you clearly have done.
However, I also hope that next year there will be more applications. Being part of the org is the most effective way to make change.
Kind Regards, JRJ
“That is the composition of the board. Back in our interview I said that Nom Com form and function needs to be overhauled. I also suggested that the Nom Com publishes a report documenting the strengths and weaknesses of the board.”
It’s funny you should mention this. I argued the same thing when the marketing guy made it past the NomCom a few years back. However, I was basically told that my view on this was crap and I was a rabble rouser (to your point to Andy on his post about the name calling and personal attacks). I hope they will better listen to you than me.
JRJ – thanks sir! I agree that PASS should keep trying experiments, but they also have to embrace success. SQL Rally was a success in the US, and they killed it to focus on the BI/BA market instead – that’s just not wise.
I do hope there’s more applications going forward, but I would stroooongly disagree that being part of the org is the most effective way for EVERYONE to affect changes. For example, I just don’t work well on BoD-type positions, but I can help by being a strong voice and journalist for the community, bringing issues like this to light. Until we shine the light on these types of things, people just aren’t aware.
Good luck sir! I’m rooting for you.
Point taken. Yes there are roles for different people to contribute in different ways. You certainly have found yours. My point really is to encourage others who want to change the organisation to get directly involved with it.
JRJ – awww, thanks sir!
While I agree with your whole blog, I disagree with the notion that this is what should have been expected due to prior election results. I’m way too lazy to go back and research when each person was elected, but it’s not like this was something that happened in one swoop, or some unhappy swap of party control (such as during mid-term elections). It’s an interesting detail that illustrates majority privilege.
I think the larger issue is that PASS is not a representative democracy – sure, we vote for leaders, but (outside of Twitter and general feelers) it’s not like the community is being polled or surveyed in any way.
Matt – thanks sir. You nailed it though: the leaders are making decisions without polling or surveying the PASS community, and that’s why their backgrounds are so incredibly important. If people are making decisions in private, then you should expect that by electing a majority of BI/BA professionals, they’re going to skew towards BI/BA. I’d argue that your larger issue is indeed correct, but there’s also the issue of people electing BoD members without looking at the long-term implications. In the past, voting has mostly consisted of, “She seems nice” or “I recognize his name” – and that’s not enough.
I think this is something that the NomCom should be able to summarise at each election cycle.
As for not being polled or surveyed. That is something that I hope will change soon. The communication needs to be a conversation. Moving forward that is something I hope to be able to change.
Brent, I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. It’s groupthink and more, not least of which is the pressure to do what Microsoft wants. The Board has decided to build a new community using the funds from the original one, without asking. There are ALWAYS some people that aren’t being served, trying to serve them all just never works. The crazy thing is that a “BI” conference would be a home run all around, without the risk and pain. The sad part is 6 of the Board members aren’t ones we can vote out of office, and as the election turned out this time we’ll re-elect 2 if not 3 existing board members.
Separately, I’d like to speak up for Sri, he ran the BA SQLSaturday to try to support the PASS agenda, before that it was a BI event (and perhaps still was!).
Andy – thanks sir. I agree – you can’t please all of the people, all of the time. I know I’m an Apple fanboi and I hate trotting out Steve Jobs, but he had that great quote:
Focus is saying no to a million things, and saying yes to one thing.
Chasing after a million markets (when you don’t really have any assets to serve those customers) means you end up doing a bad job.
I feel like I come at this discussion with an interesting background. I was a production DBA for nearly 12 years, but I also built on of the first Hadoop clusters at Cabletown and weaseled my way into an MS BI certification. I’ll stop humblebragging, but I’m trying to illustrate that I can see both sides of the argument.
As a speaker at both BA Conferences, I feel as our guidance from the program committee was very obtuse–it wasn’t clear as a speaker what they were looking for in terms of abstracts.
Brent’s point above is excellent–PASS isn’t the right org to be promoting a true BA conference. A conference like Strata or Structure:Data (which I attended in 2013) goes deep into real analytics problems and how they are solved on a large scale.
Here’s the link to Structure:Data–take a look at the sponsor list:
Save Microsoft, I’ve never seen one of those sponsors at a PASS event. It’s an uphill battle, that like Brent mentions will cost a ton of resources to get off the ground. And to be honest, is challenging if you are mainly limiting yourself to Microsoft’s ecosystem.
Joey – agreed. I’m a huge fan of the book The Mom Test – go to your potential market, ask what pains they’re facing, and ask how they go about finding relief for those pains. We did similar research with our own clients to find out if they’d start first with Microsoft-focused consultants for analytics pain relief or training, and … well, we’re not pursuing that work, so you can figure out how that went.
As a former PASS chapter leader this continues a trend I’ve seen since joining PASS. The membership was not consulted about the change in direction of PASS. I’m not against doing new things, I just think you need to have the chapters and members behind you, to support the organization before going in a new direction. This BA thrust was not communicated to the membership. What is the cost of this, what do we hope to gain?
This divergence of PASS away from SQL should have been discussed and agreed to by the membership. As usual there was scant communication about why we were doing this, as no agreement from the members. PASS board continues to seek buy in from members, potentially alienating large groups of its existing membership.
I realize I may not be wise enough to see the ‘big picture’ in this move, but it would help if the board would promulgate the direction it wants to take.
Dave – yep, agreed. There’s been serious failings this year when it comes to clearly communicating the Board’s vision and decisions.
Looking back at the name change and reflecting on it I was actually very angry when I first heard about it but kept my mouth pretty much shut back then and thought I was overreacting and that perhaps I’d missed some discussion or consultation. I’ve proudly worn that “Professional Association of SQL Server” badge for a very long time but apparently that doesn’t mean anything anymore. Dave, you have raised a really good point. This name change was a HUGE change (rightly or wrongly) and I believe we (the membership) should have been consulted. I think the points that Brent has raised in the discussion i.e. that the name change was done essentially to accommodate the BA Conf is pretty damming tbh and saddens me. I’m still waiting for someone behind these decisions to provide a strong coherent argument why they happened (and I really hope there is one), but any arguments I’ve heard so far seem to be full of holes and contradictions or at best opaque.
And what does the name change mean for the organization in the future? Are chapters free to host a whateverSaturday? As long as it has some data involved then go for it. What do we tell our members? What is the vision and the future of our organization? Will we continue to change based on Microsoft’s flavor of the month?
Having been to the last PASS BA conference, I would strongly agree that problems #1 and #2 exist. I’d say there’s one other contributing factor, though:
Microsoft is an also-ran in the area of data analysis. The cutting edge is all open-source, including the top-tier practitioners, architectures, and speakers.
I wrote about this a while back, http://devnambi.com/2014/passbac/
Dev – WOW, how did I miss that post? That’s really good analysis. I chuckled at this:
“The main limitation of PASS BAC is that it’s a Microsoft-centric conference on data analysis. That’s like having a World Cup with only the U.S., Canada, and Belize.”
Pull my finger…….he he… I think we have.
Steve – well, that would explain the small in here…
Like most of the other comments, I agree with your points #1 and #2, but I disagree on #3.
I think it is far more likely that the PASS board is a symptom of changing demographics in PASS. We have a lot more BI/BA oriented members of PASS than we did a few years ago. This is reflected in the board of directors.
I strongly suspect that the Summit just hit a critical mass of BI/BA oriented attendees to the point where they had to split it off into a new conference or water down the IT portion of the summit.
That is not to say that PASS should be running an analytics conference, but that narrative seems much more likely to me than the board pushing through a personal agenda.
Mike – we’re data professionals, and we gotta go off numbers. Just one year ago, the PASS membership was evenly divided 50/50 about whether a NoSQL/Big Data track was even needed at Summit:
Not a separate event even – just a separate track. That tells you it’s not really time for a separate event yet.
“A critical mass of BI/BA oriented attendees” is a key sentence here. This is a part of the problem, you are covering the two, but PASS don’t want the BA to be associated with the BI.
If there’s a completely separate conference for this stuff then why is such a large percentage of the main Summit for the BI folks? This just points to PASS seeing BI and BA to be completely different things with different demographics.
So if PASS wants to move forward into that area of things then it’s going to leave things behind, and that appears to be SQL. It is fine that they feel that it’s the right path forward for them as an organization, but they have to expect that people who aren’t BI-centric are going to have things to say about the change.
I agree with both of you on this and was sharing a hypothesis as to why the BA conference is happening that seems more likely to me than members of the board pushing through a self serving agenda.
Your evidence against the hypothesis is pretty compelling, so I will withdraw it, however, I still think that some sort of perceived demand, even if it isn’t real, is a lot more likely than #3.
Mike – understood, and I think your hypothesis does have a lot of truth to it. There *have* to be more BI/BA type people in PASS these days because the topic is gathering steam. Just not sure there’s enough to dedicate a whole conference to it, and even if there is, PASS clearly isn’t the organization to successfully host that conference in a profitable way.
I am in complete agreement with you there. Dev’s blog post sums up my opinions on the BA conference very well.
Good points, Brent.
Question for you, sir: Do you expect PASS to make any changes – to either the name of the organization or their plans for the 2015 BA Conference?
Andy – thanks sir! No, I don’t expect changes. I don’t even expect a dialog. Just more press release type blog posts…
Sadly, I concur.
Great Info. So this is why I am having hard time building up my pass schedule as most of the track I see are BI or cloud now. Also noticed that most of DB development or DB Admin tracks are level 200 (beside Bob Wards and couple of other speaker tracks) which is not good. Me and my manager both are going to pass and expected to have some hardcore deep technical sessions with real world examples which was the case at least 4 years ago I last attended. My manager was expecting Paul White style deep query tuning sessions 🙂 so he is disappointed and if I know him enough then he definitely going to rant out in pass surveys 🙂 . This is kind of not enough bang for the buck that company spends.
As you might expect I don’t agree with everything you say here, but I want to pick you up on one particular point. You quote me and say
“PASS had to change its name just to run this new conference.”
If you actually read what I wrote, I don’t say that at all. What I do say is that PASS had to change its name to be more inclusive, to welcome people who work with the parts of the MS data platform that aren’t core SQL Server. That’s exactly what the PASS blog post announcing the name change says too. Running the BA Conference is one part of this outreach project but I do not say that PASS changed its name *just* to run the BA Conference.
I’m sure this doesn’t change how you feel about anything, but if we are going to debate this properly let’s try not to misrepresent each other’s arguments.
Chris – agreed, I interpreted what you said as, PASS can’t attract these users and give them a conference without changing its name.
Do you believe that PASS could have run a successful BA conference without changing its name?
Yes, I think PASS could have run a successful BA conference without changing its name. However I think the name change can only help PASS prove its good faith here and will help make the conference even more successful. The name change also helps other efforts such as other in-person BA events and the BA Virtual Chapter, not just the BA Conference.
OK, great. So what I’d usually do is try experiments first (like seeing if the conference gains attendees, rather than losing them) and then work with data. Survey the customers and find out why they’re leaving (or not attending). Is the business’s name holding them back? Does a name change gain you more customers in the new sector than you lose in the old sector? Share that with the community, and ask for their input too.
I’m always amazed at the great ideas out there in the community. Folks really do want to help.
I’m guessing – and I hate guessing without numbers, which is what was done by PASS here – that the organization’s name isn’t what’s holding the BA Conference back from being successful. I’m having a hard time envisioning attendees that said, “You know, I had a good time at this conference, but the organization’s name had these two words – SQL Server – that really bothered me.”
That’s just me though, and that’s where I know we disagree, and that’s okay.
I have an equally hard time envisioning an existing member of PASS saying “You know, I really love what PASS does to support the SQL Server community with the Summit, SQL Saturdays and all, but it would be so much more effective if it still had these two words – SQL Server – in its name”.
I don’t think the name-change happened specifically for the BA Conference and I don’t see anyone from PASS suggesting that’s why it happened. What you and I probably do agree on is that the name-change and the BA Conference are just two manifestations of a more general change in direction by PASS to expand beyond its traditional membership. What we disagree on is whether this is a good thing or not… and as you say, that’s ok. This is why we have elections after all.
Chris – great, I think we’re getting close actually!
Now, do you understand that there’s a real financial cost to change the group’s name (because this rebranding isn’t done by volunteers, but by paid C&C employees as they change web sites, marketing materials, legal documents, etc)?
And do you also understand that the cost comes directly from PASS attendees?
[replying here because I don’t seem to be able to reply directly to your last comment]
Yes, of course any investment like this has costs associated and this comes from revenue generated at the Summit. Do you expect PASS not to make any investments like this at all? Would you object if PASS was spending this money reaching out to a lost tribe of DBAs who for some reason had never heard of it before? I suspect not – it’s not the fact that they are making an investment that’s the problem, it’s what they are investing in and what that represents for the organisation as a whole.
Chris – correct, I don’t expect PASS to make investments that don’t have an ROI. We’re data people – let’s not start making investments based on feelings like “I bet with a different name we could get more users for a different platform.” We simply don’t have any evidence of that, and our funding is really limited.
I’m truly stunned to learn, through this blog post, that PASS is taking SQL Server out of its name. Why in the world wasn’t the membership polled on this? I honestly think they should before any more effort is spent to realize this change.
When I attend any PASS event, I know that SQL Server is the foundation or universal reference point for all attendees and sessions, even if it goes unmentioned in a particular session. That’s my connection to everyone else there. I’m attending those events because PASS = SQL Server.
PASS doesn’t serve data professionals. There is no focus on Oracle, DB2, postgres…. It serves data professionals who use or support SQL Server in some manner.
Wow…. I must investigate where to submit proper feedback on this. I feel like I joined a baseball club that’s renamed itself to sportsclub and is now using my fees to launch hockey events.
Anne – yep, you nailed it.
Here’s another reason.
Many of the “BA professionals” being pursued by this marketing drive are actually professionals in something other than “BA”, who happen to use Excel, or R, or SAS, or even “traditional” programming languages, to carry out whatever analysis tasks they need to do.
You can find these people at scientific, medical, economic, and financial services events rather than at events where the audience is defined by the tools they use.
Great point–those folks tend to go to conferences in the area of their expertise, rather than a technology focused conference.
Since deep nested replies don’t seem to be working…
@Chris well actually, spending money on publicising PASS to SQL DBA/ BI and DEVS would be a much better use of that money imo than on a branding change. I am frequently (more often than not) bumping into people who do not have a clue what PASS is about and have to offer. Even in the States when I have represented PASS there, I have met LOTS of attendees who are fairly clueless about what PASS do and events they run and material they offer, so I fail to see why chasing another market is even necessary anyway. The existing market is still substantially untapped – and this is certainly true globally.
@anne I agree. The more this discussion goes on, the more it sounds like the decision to drop the name and chase the BA Conf (regardless of whether there was a connection – and I think there was one) is poorly thought out. Without the words “SQL Server”, PASS ends up becoming just another generic organisation and generic database conference but with the ball and chain of Microsoft still dictating agenda. I fail to see how this benefits any of the existing PASS membership one iota. I desperately want someone to say “you are all wrong because…” and provide the evidence and most importantly: strategy, but so far all I have heard is opinion. Surely these decisions have been made using evidence with a strategy? If so, I don’t think this is being communicated effectively.
Outside of a small group of SQL Server professionals, PASS is not very well known. Poll first time SQL Saturday attendees and you’ll see that this is the case. Go to a non-SQL Server event like a code camp and ask around. You’ll find that most folks don’t know what PASS is. I experience this every time I go out to a code camp or a technology conference. Speaking with other SQL Server-centric speakers, I find that to be true for them as well. So why hasn’t PASS marketed in these areas?
That’s a natural extension of what PASS already was. It should already be hitting these populations. I’m not saying PASS shouldn’t push into the BA arena. However, the two pushes aren’t mutually exclusive unless it’s a question of resources. If that’s the case, it would make more sense to reach and consolidate devs first. After all, our members (and our BoD) are techies. We understand techies best. Expand where we know.
I think we see completely agree and my experiences have been the same. I absolutely want PASS’s initiates to work (including the BA Conference), but they shouldn’t have to compromise other things to do so. For anyone to suggest to me that these changes were a necessary part of the future strategy is either misguided OR knows something about the direction of PASS that is probably not going to be compatible with my reasons for needing to be a member of a SQL Server Organisation. I mean seriously, I like your Porsche analogy, so I’ll throw one out too. The change is like Oracle Open World deciding that from now on they are going to call it Open World for the same reasons PASS have dropped SQL Server from their brand. It’s just bizarre.
it’s a slippery slope issue. Today they strike SQL Server from the name. That means the focus starts shifting from SQL Server. Eventually it becomes a more generic organization where SQL Server is no longer primary. At that point, if you’re primary focus is SQL Server whether your relational or BI, you’ve no longer the primary audience for the organization, meaning it doesn’t serve you well.
To use an analogy, it’s like a Porsche group striking Porsche from its name and going with sports cars. As more Mustang and Corvette owners pour in, Porsche owners become the minority and then eventually, are unlikely to see much value from the organization at all.
KBK – yep, agreed. There’s definitely a market for the brand-independent Sports Car Club of America, for example, but the Porsche Club of America isn’t going to attract Corvette members if they suddenly rebrand as the PCA. Everybody already knew them as the PCA – simply taking off the underlying words doesn’t fool anybody.
Depends on the benefits. What if Sports Car Club of America was able to get premium insurance for sports car owners cheaper than Corvette members could get anywhere else? Then you’d start to see a major switch.
That’s basically the corner PASS paints itself in with the BA market.
And even worse, PASS is saying, “We only do Microsoft products, but we don’t make that clear in the name either.”
Perhaps they should clarify the new name, and dub themselves M-PASS (Microsoft-PASS). Pun intended.
Wow, as a person who has never attended the PASS Summit (I need to get out more), this doesn’t make me very excited to do so. We are talking about the same organization that puts on the PASS Summit right?
Brandon – yep, one and the same.
I truly hope they are able to fix this for the future BA conference attendee and customers that will spend top dollar on conference fee, travel and expenses. For the average attendee that basically means their entire training budget is gone for the year. A BA conference compared to a PASS Summit should span well beyond Microsoft technologies and should include SAS, ESSBASE, Microstrategy, Power BI, SSRS, SSAS, Power Pivot, Tableau, R, Infographics, etc…
So I’ve spent 45 minutes reading all these comments. I’ll say upfront that I am on the BI side of things and a regular speaker at SQL Saturdays in Australia. I’ve noticed a massive swing towards BI topics at both SQL Saturdays and local user groups.
So the DBA’s can rant as much as they want, but the reality is that BI is the hot topic right now. FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, the infrastructure requirement is dying out, because of cloud offerings. Who needs a DBA when everything in in the cloud? Massive companies still need them for now, but in 15 years that isn’t going to be the case anymore. BI is where the innovation is at now. I know what I am saying is not going to be popular, but the pure DBAs reading this (unless they’re Brent Ozar) better start expanding their horizons if they still want to be working in 10 years time. My opinion…
Craig – absolutely, I agree that BI is growing. And as you note, PASS is already able to serve BI topics – note that you’ve seen BI sessions at both SQL Saturdays and local user groups.
But here’s the trick: while interest is growing, the attendance at the BA Conference has actually been DROPPING.
The question isn’t whether or not BI is in demand – it certainly is. The question is whether PASS has the right resources and audience to put on a BA Conference, and the proof is in the attendance numbers. And how about you – did you attend the BA Conference? And if not, why not?
Hi Craig. You said that DBAs better start expanding their horizons, so perhaps you’re not aware that approx. half of the PASS Summit sessions are BI/BA. The question here is not whether BI/BA is growing or important, it is whether PASS is the right organization to be putting on a conference covering only that. It’s not such a good fit. People interested in the topic from a tools perspective, need much more than the Microsoft stack, and people interested from a business perspective usually attend conferences for their industry.
I don’t think there is really any DBA worth his salt out there that disagrees with you regarding the increasing move to Cloud for the Infrastructure, but until Cloud based solutions become auto-tuning and auto-maintaining then there is still going to be plenty of demand for their skills. Without doubt though, some of their focus is changing and they will (like all of us) have to move with the times. Also I don’t really think I’ve heard anyone in the discussion ranting -certainly not to suggest that BI has no importance, because I (and no doubt they) already recognise that fact (and have done so for a very long time) the demand in the industry for those skills. All I’ve heard so far is coherant arguments as to why these moves are a mistake, but I’m less convinced on the strengths and coherency of the arguments against.
My interpretation of the things being discussed are as follows:
1. Dropping the name SQL Server is a loss in focus and generalises (or waters down) the Organisation.
2. It looks as though it happened primarily to accommodate the BA Conf.
3. BA Conf appears to be a conference with no clearly defined market and no clearly defined audience and no clearly defined technologies.
..and a few other points your post raises:
4. The experts have already told us that BA != BI, so your points about BI starting to become King is kind of irrelevant, especially because….
5. PASS Summit already has substantial BI sessions and speakers – which I also love to see and learn from at the event. I am trying to “get with the programme or get left behind right! :)”. Summit will always ultimately reflect the market, so as the market gets even bigger, so will the number of BI sessions in contrast to the DBA/DEV sessions. But as mentioned above this BI we are talking about is not the same as that which is being discussed for the BA.
Brent, I did attend the inaugural BA conference in Chicago. While I thought it wasn’t bad, I didn’t think it was great either. BI/BA is such a wide and diverse topic, and limiting the conference to MS only is a mistake. If MS is so confident about their offering, they should be trying to get their competitors to the conferences in order to demonstrate their value. Maybe I chose the wrong forum to express my opinion, but I think someone needs to point out to the DBAs what happened to the highly paid COBOL programmers post Y2K. Enough said!
Craig – I look forward to your future of self-managing clouds.
We’ve got clients today who are in Amazon and Azure, and you’ll note that I called them clients. They’re not paying us because we’re fun to hang out with. 😉
I never said self-managing, but instead of 100 DBAs, we.ll need 2. Hence why I excluded you 🙂
I think you are missing the point that most of us agree (and I do defer to the BI/BA experts such as yourself), but the subject matter of BA is so broad, that MS should only be a small part of such a conference. Microsoft is part of the PASS ecosystem, therefore your response confirms the point against the name drop and PASS BA conf. NOBODY is saying that BA conferences/ meetups are a bad idea, just that “is PASS the right organisation to be putting one on?”
I’ll take that. I have maybe missed the point that some of you are trying to make. I agree with that comment. What I do have an issue with is that the ones complaining are those that are seeing their careers disappearing in front of them and acting like the world owes them something. Read the book “who moved my cheese”. BTW: I’m 40 years old and have been through some major disruptions in tech. I hate people who refuse to adjust with the times.
Craig – ah, another old guy! I’m 40 myself, and this is my fourth or fifth career (after hotels, accounting, systems administration, and developer). You might find that a lot of us are indeed more agile than we look.
My rant is not aimed at anyone in particular, and most importantly I think it is important to point out that that I don’t advocate the recent PASS changes. I just feel that several of the comments in response to your post “appear” to be DBAs lamenting the way things used to be, and that (censored). Let the hash lookups rain their wrath on me 🙂
Craig – I don’t censor opinions, but I do censor swear words. Let’s keep this place clean. Thanks!
Hahaha yep you are right but you know those people are the sort that you get them in an interview and ask “what blogs do you read?” they wouldn’t have an answer, and it is doubtful they’ll be lurking on Brent’s pages. This last 6 months have been quite interesting for me. Whilst I make fairly good money from the traditional SQL Engine, HA and Dev I have noticed the industry moving faster than I can ever remember before (perhaps its an age thing – I’m well over 40 too 🙂 and started telling myself to wake up and smell the Coffee and I really do think it is only a matter of time before I need a certain level of skill in R, Hadoop, Power(Query/View), Tableau etc. In the first presentation I ever gave a good few years back now, I talked about the need for people to become “Generalising Specialists” -the ability for them to have enough understanding of a technology in order that, should they ever need it, they can very quickly focus and dive deeper and become more specialist in that area for that project/ requirement/ position. I suspect that this is what many of us will need to do. A lot of hard work ahead for us all….
I went to my first Summit last year, and the BA focus took me a bit off-guard, although the trend was there. When they divided up the lunch tables by topic (I think the “birds of a feather” luncheon) I was amazed by the way they divided things up…I’m going purely by memory and I think half or more were BA/BI, and what most people consider conventional DBA topics were a small subset of the remainder. And as you probably can surmise, it was harder to get a seat at those tables. Because PASS wants us to care more about BA/BI, they had to put more tables out for that stuff! Anyway, I wish I could find the flyer, but I found it funny.
Also I went to the wrong room at one point and found myself in an EXCEL demo. I made it to the door safely, though, without losing consciousness.
Not making it to the Summit this year (two of my colleagues will), but if this trend continues, not sure I will be missing too much. I mean, besides the MS Access keyboard shortcut sessions and the demo of English Query v2.0 😉
Nic – hahaha, yeah. I can imagine that it’s hard guessing how many tables to allocate for topics, but at the same time, they *do* have all member data ahead of time, and it’s relatively easy to send out planning surveys. They just have to get the community involved instead of guessing.
[…] Read Why I Support The PASS Name Change And Its Efforts To Expand Into The BA Community and 3 Reasons The #SQLPASS BA-CON Will Fail (And One Reason It’s Happening), and read the comments for each for a deeper […]