Are SQLPass right to hold a Business Analytics conference?

Recently, the Professional Association of SQL Server announced that they were planning to hold a Business Analytics Conference in the spring of 2013. I read the announcement, and I’m super-excited about it for a number of reasons.
I’m happy that there is a demand for a subject which I’m passionate about, Business Analytics and Business Intelligence. If you’ve ever tried to get into some of the popular Business Intelligence sessions at SQLPass Summit, then you’ll know that sometimes you can’t get in the door since there’s no room. In other words, the Business Intelligence and Analytics sessions are just mobbed. I know that I’ve repeated Business Intelligence sessions at SQLBits and at TechEd Europe, since people want to know about Business Intelligence. Other people who’ve repeated sessions include Peter Myers, for example. For TechEd Europe, the Business Intelligence ‘Power Hour’ was one of the top sessions out of a whole gamut of IT-professional oriented topics.
I believe that PASS are responding to community demand for a Business Analytics event, and I’d personally welcome a ‘gathering’ of people who are excited about this subject as I am.
I believe in this Business Analytics event…. but then it became clear that there was a lot of genuine anger as well. Some seemed to say that SQLRally was chopped to make way for this Business Analytics event, and let’s be fair, some people are real SQLRally fans – myself included. Some even went as far as to argue that this was just a money-making machine since Business Intelligence is a popular topic, which I think is a really negative way to look at it.
All this stramash genuinely made me sad. I was in two minds whether to write this blog, and then I thought that I’ve the same right to express my opinion, and others are free to disagree or agree as they see fit.
I think that, if you want to make serious money, you’d be nuts to put on a SQL Server conference as a way to do it. If you look at the details of the Budget, we’re not talking millions of pounds. The profit is $100K, which will flow back into their reserves. You have to have money aside in order to set up events such as SQLPass Summit; for example the event venue will want security and paid up front; you’ll have to pay for other things such as advertising, marketing and the other things that will encourage people to participate.
All the ‘goody bags’ that people are eager to open: someone has got to pay for those. The meals that we all enjoy; the free beers that we expect; the events we expect to attend out-of-hours; the prizes, the raffles etc etc. As an audience, we have high expectations from these events. Have you heard people whinge about goody bags and food? See what I mean?

 

What I’d really like to see is PASS do something that doesn’t come with a ton of baggage. A clean start. Remember that a lot of these events and hard community work – and it is hard work, preparation and sweat – comes from volunteers. For example, some people, including myself! flew from here in London to Dallas to present at SQLRally – at our own expense, away from our families, and volunteered our time for our sqlfamily. It is my privilege to be flying out for SQLPass Summit in November 2012 in order to see my favourite SQLFamily members, old friends and new community members alike.
The volunteering doesn’t just end with the events: there are webinars and user groups and chapter meetings and online events.. the list goes on.
So, I’d like to say a huge Thank You to the volunteers who put on this massive effort for us, the sqlfamily, the sql server community. I think that I’d like to see more ‘thank you’ to the volunteers, and to PASS… and less politics. I’m hoping that this Business Analytics event will go ahead with a real community spirit in place, with people behind it. Remember that some of these attendees will be novices, who are looking to learn and share in the community. You could be sitting next to the next Brent Ozar or Kalen Delaney – who knows?
I think that people just need to be given a chance sometimes, and I wish the organisers and volunteers at PASS my very best wishes and thanks for all of their hard work in putting this event together for us, the sql family. As Mother Theresa said, Peace starts with a smile…. and this is a smile from me.

To summarise, I think that PASS are right to hold this event. The sheer numbers of BI people at events – not just SQLPass, but SQLBits and TechEd too – are testament to the fact that there is a real community need for a BI ‘gathering’.  I hope that you will start to become as super-excited as I am, and I hope to see you there!

7 thoughts on “Are SQLPass right to hold a Business Analytics conference?

  1. Generally, I lean toward better content and less swag. First and foremost, I come to network and to learn. If the goodies detract from that, then I'll find another venue. I vote for letting the vendors deliver the swag and let PASS support the learning and networking.

  2. You're spot on, Jen.

    The advent of this event is not a money grab. Most events hope to do little more than break even, and I'm sure that is true for this one as well.

    And I also know, from a historical standpoint, that the user community has been asking for a strongly BI-focused event for years. This is about meeting community education needs, not making a lot of cash.

    Btw, I'm also intrigued by the word 'stramash'. That's a new one!

  3. Jen,

    Did you know that Dallas is holding a SQL Saturday BI edition, as well? I can't say that we're the only ones to do so, but I haven't *heard* of another, offhand.

    The BI edition is smaller than our regular SQL Saturdays, and there's some grumbling about it being unnecessary…but I suspect that it's the non-BI guys who are doing most of the grumbling. I mean, whingeing. 🙂
    -Jen M

  4. Jen…Thank you for your candidness about the new event. I to am excited about hanging out with a bunch of BI geeks and think this is a great step towards giving business intelligence it's own culture and identity and not just lumping it in with the technology and databases.

  5. Jen- Thanks for the thoughtful perspective and encouraging support. You are correct, PASS volunteers make it all happen along with strong execution from our excellent HQ team.
    The SQL Rally North America vs. BA Conference community debate could be upsetting since the events are not interrelated, but I always appreciate the passion of PASS members and can see that the timing of things might have created an unavoidable mixed message.

    I am personally excited about the continued success of the SQL Rally model as PASS will facilitate a number of SQL Rally events across the globe this upcoming year. And I am elated about expanding PASS and sqlfamily to include folks in the BA broader community that are searching for the type of education, resources and network that we have.

    We have quite a year ahead of us.

    Douglas McDowell

  6. Jen- Thanks for the thoughtful perspective and encouraging support. You are correct, PASS volunteers make it all happen along with strong execution from our excellent HQ team.
    The SQL Rally North America vs. BA Conference community debate could be upsetting since the events are not interrelated, but I always appreciate the passion of PASS members and can see that the timing of things might have created an unavoidable mixed message.

    I am personally excited about the continued success of the SQL Rally model as PASS will facilitate a number of SQL Rally events across the globe this upcoming year. And I am elated about expanding PASS and sqlfamily to include folks in the BA broader community that are searching for the type of education, resources and network that we have.

    We have quite a year ahead of us.

    Douglas McDowell

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