As most of you are aware, I was recently elected as the next President of PASS. One of my first duties as incoming President is to allocate portfolios. Traditionally, we have had a few portfolios (or programs) and board members get assigned to lead and drive much of what they do throughout the year. Some portfolio ownerships can be multi-year engagements as well. For example Greg Low managed the Chapter portfolio for 2 years and Lynda Rab has been managing the Educational Program portfolio that deals with pulling together and managing the summit program for multiple years. Portfolios certainly have their advantages - there is a clear owner that you can hold responsible and as Andy points out in his post, our budgets are created based on the concept of portfolios and so that portfolio owner is completely responsible for that portion of the budget (planning and managing).
Our traditional portfolios last year were…
- Global Chapters - Greg Low
- Educational Program - Lynda Rab
- Virtual Chapters - Tom LaRock
- Technology - Douglas McDowell
- Virtual Communities - Andy Warren
- Special Projects - Rick Heiges
The Special Projects portfolio was created a couple of years back to handle initiatives that did not cleanly fall in one of the canned portfolios. Our 24 Hours of PASS was an example of an initiative that was led under the Special Projects portfolio. The Executive Committee is responsible for managing the foundational services such as marketing, finance and resources that impact all portfolios and the organization.
The portfolio approach also has some downsides. Traditionally the board member in charge of a portfolio has full control over the direction of the portfolio. This meant that a new board member with a completely different vision could potentially steer the portfolio in a completely different direction than his/her predecessor. This of course can be good or bad. We do have some board level checks and balances to prevent that from happening, especially with drastic changes in direction. We hope that the community oversight will also help us catch that early on. Another downside to the portfolio approach is that while certain board members get the choice of portfolios that they are passionate about, most certainly other board members may get slotted into a portfolio that they don't much care about or are passionate about. It could mean that they get disillusioned or ignore the portfolio for the most part and just do the bare minimum. This impacts PASS.
This year, as I spoke to individual board members to get a feel for their interests, it became apparent to me that certain initiatives that they wanted to see at PASS had larger implications than a single portfolio. For example, the Speaker Bureau. This is a great initiative for Chapters. But, it is also something that would benefit Virtual Chapters and PASS Community Connections and other initiatives where Community Speakers participate. So, a board member responsible for thinking of this program or initiative without the confines of a portfolio will have a better chance of creating a program that works for the organization and not just a single portfolio. There would certainly be involvement from folks in individual portfolios as well to help with the right needs assessment and support execution. Also, in my discussions, quite a few board members wanted to lead interesting initiatives that did not cleanly fall within existing or predefined portfolios.
When deciding how to best allocate portfolios/initiatives, I also had to ensure that existing portfolios and their ongoing needs as well as ongoing initiatives are continuing to be managed and there are clear owners. The process involved extensive discussions with individual board members, Judy Christianson who also acts as our Executive Director, the HQ team as well as the Executive Committee. We also have to have a clear vision of our priorities as an organization and our goals for next year to ensure that the assignments fall in line with our goals. I have to admit that at the onset, I thought that this would be a short easy process, but, the process has been more complex - probably due to us re-looking at how to allocate portfolios versus focus on initiatives. We may end up with the wrong answer, but in speaking with Andy about the change, he suggested that as long as we can review the process and portfolios at periodic intervals and be open to making changes, it's worth a try.
In a follow-up post, I will detail out the key goals, portfolios and initiatives as well as assignments. I am not ready to do that as yet before talking to each individual board member, outside of mentioning that Douglas McDowell is going to lead Strategic Chapters and Jeremiah Peschka will lead Educational Program. At present Andy Warren is going to start working on the much requested Speaker Bureau and continue to finish polishing the SQL Server Standard program so that it can continue to run smoothly without active board member involvement. Andy is also completing the PASS Online Store.
With the new structure, we will also have room for community leaders to take on initiatives. So, stay tuned for the same.