The official PASS blog provides all the latest announcements, developments, and informative updates from the PASS Community and PASS Board of Directors. The blog is updated regularly, so please check back often or subscribe to be advised when new posts are published.

PASS and Business Analytics: A Winning Combination

June 29, 2015--The results are in and the PASS Business Analytics Conference (BAC) 2015 was a success! At the recent Board meeting this month, the PASS Board reviewed the outcomes of this event and discussed the future of PASS Business Analytics (BA). A primary goal of the PASS Board of Directors is not just to maintain but to improve the health of our organization and our community. Reaching this goal means offering the best learning environments possible, such as PASS Summit, 24 Hours of PASS, and more. It also means looking beyond today’s landscape and preparing for the future of SQL Server and related data technologies. 
Over the past few years, we’ve watched as companies across all industries embrace data to become more competitive, results-oriented, and data-driven. This has created significant new challenges and opportunities in data analytics and BA. Now, experienced BA and data analytics professionals are in high demand and short supply. And those entering this nascent field are in need of the type of community and learning environment that SQL Server professionals enjoy as PASS members.

This is one of the reasons that we started PASS BAC in 2013. Like most new endeavors, it’s taken a few years to find its bearings. Following PASS BAC 2014, we evolved to support the needs of business and data analysts. This included revamping content and refining our focus within the analyst audience. So we rebooted BAC 2015, tailoring it to focus on those who consume data and use it to drive business decisions. 

With this refined approach, we renewed our focus on providing real-world, applicable learning that can give attendees an immediate and direct means to benefit their organizations—just as PASS Summit provides for DBAs and other data facilitators. We created a conference for people who extract and manipulate data using technologies such as Excel, Power BI, SQL, Hive, and R throughout all the stages in the analytical process. We delivered practical, best practices information, hands-on training, and visionary thought leadership.

Were we successful? Well, 77% of attendees were in our target Analyst audience. Our hands-on lab sessions were overflowing, the Expo Hall was buzzing, and more than half the BA and business intelligence (BI) attendees said that they would recommend the conference to colleagues, noting that we’d delivered “practical/effective training” that was both “inspiring” and “interactive”.

Our audience reported that their primary interests were upgrading their skills and finding a community for continued networking—and we saw that community forming right in front of us. As a result, the PASS BA Planning Committee made several recommendations to the PASS Board of Directors during the Board’s June 2015 meeting: 

* PASS should continue organizing a conference for data and business analysts.
We should continue with our refined approach for PASS BAC 2016.
* We should continue to engage with the BA audience and influencers.
* We should build a coherent development and engagement strategy for this growing community.

The Board agreed. By continuing to invest in PASS BAC and by fostering a community, we can meet the unique needs of business and data analysts. We already have many offerings that serve PASS members who are interested in BA. And we have growing resources and support from willing volunteers. From the Business Analytics and Excel Business Intelligence Virtual Chapters and BA Insights newsletter to webinars, the pieces are in place to support PASS BAC and the growth of our community, including the establishment of an advisory committee and a three-year plan laying out the best way to move forward. 

We are excited about the opportunities and benefits that these decisions will provide for all data professions within the PASS community. If you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. And we hope you’ll help us spread the word about this new community to the data and business analysts in your organizations.

- Jen Stirrup
PASS Board Member


PASS Summit 2015 Community Sessions

June 26, 2015--Have you heard the news? We’ve announced the speakers and session lineup for PASS Summit 2015 – and we think it’s the best one yet! Each year, the Program Team has the difficult task of choosing sessions from amongst a wealth of wonderful submissions. I want to tell everyone who submitted this year how much we appreciate the support and dedication of this community.

How We Choose

The program-selection process is a continually fine-tuned process designed to help ensure a fair, objective, and well-balanced program. Program Committee volunteers are assigned to review abstracts, speakers, or PowerPoint decks. Each team has specific duties that help ensure the integrity of our selection process. Scores and ratings are used to determine the top sessions from each track, and we used these to fill the community session slots. We look for a balanced track that contains sessions that represent all the key topics across a variety of skill levels and without a great deal of duplication. We also look for a good mix of both seasoned speakers and new voices. Still have questions about the process, we have a helpful FAQ you page you can refer back to. 

This year, 67 of our volunteers reviewed a total of 886 abstracts. Of those submissions, 20% were chosen for our community sessions, representing 52% of the speakers who submitted. 28% of those speakers will be speaking at PASS Summit for the first time!

Next Steps

Now that the community sessions have been selected, the next step is to open the Microsoft call for speakers. We’ll work with Microsoft to make sure that these submissions complement the community sessions; stay tuned for these sessions to be announced in August.

We’ll also begin constructing learning paths to make it easier for attendees to choose between sessions.  As always, we welcome your feedback on any step of this process.  
Finally, we will work to build the schedule, including partnering with Microsoft and the Program Committee Special Project team of volunteers to utilize data science to predict session attendance and schedule sessions into the appropriate sized rooms and timeslots. You can read more about the success of this additional process last year in Dev Nambi’s blogs: PASS Attendance and Summit Feedback

A Big Thank You 

Once again, thank you to all who submitted—and to all the volunteers who worked so hard these past few months during the selection process, particularly our Program Team Managers Lance Harra, Mindy Curnutt and Angela Henry. 

We can’t wait for you to dive into the lineup for this year’s PASS Summit, the premier event by and for the SQL Server Community. Help us spread the word, and don’t forget to register by July 12 to save $400 on registration—plus contact your Local or Virtual Chapter for an additional $150 savings! See you in Seattle!

– Amy Lewis
PASS Director of Programs

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Changes to the 2015 PASS Board Elections

June 24, 2015--The 2014 NomCom was tasked to streamline the process for evaluating candidates as well as to enhance community engagement.

The 2015 elections cycle will highlight those changes.

We’ve expanded the minimum criteria for candidates to identify the skills, experience, and qualifications needed to help set the strategic direction for PASS. Here are the minimum criteria needed for candidates to be considered to move to the interview round:
• Be a current eligible voting member of PASS
• Have direct volunteer experience with PASS
• Work with one of the Microsoft data technologies
• Be free of conflict of interest that would affect eligibility
• Be fluent in written and spoken English
• Agree to the time and travel commitments required to serve on the PASS Board of Directors
• Submit three references with a statement of support

In addition, to enhance community engagement and give voters an opportunity to make a more educated vote, the NomCom has made a change to the way candidates will be weighted and publication of that weighting. If an applicant meets the outlined minimum criteria, they will move to the interview round. Each applicant will then be interviewed based on categories to measure the strength of their candidacy. No overall ranking will be published; instead an aggregate score for each category will be published. This will give the community transparency on the strength of each applicant in each category and will provide more information for members to make an educated vote. Look for the 2015 PASS Board of Directors application August 5 on the PASS Elections page, which will outline all the minimum criteria in more detail. See the full details of the 2014 NomCom changes to the 2015 PASS Board elections here.

2015 NomCom

The NomCom is a five-member committee that manages the PASS Board of Directors elections process, qualifying, interviewing and weighting potential candidates. A final slate is then submitted to the Board for approval.

Immediate Past President Bill Graziano will chair this year’s NomCom, which will include three elected representatives reflecting the three seats up for the PASS Board this year: one EMEA seat, one US/Canada seat, and one open seat. A representative appointed by the PASS Board will round up the committee.

Who’s Eligible to Run?

To be eligible to run for the NomCom, candidates must have a demonstrable track record of volunteering with PASS – such as serving as a Regional Mentor, Chapter or Virtual Chapter Leader, or Program Committee member – and participating in other volunteer endeavors. Note that as an essential part of the PASS Board elections process, the NomCom requires significant time and effort. By applying for the NomCom, applicants agree to the time commitments of the entire general elections process, including Board applicant interviews.

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Inside the PASS Board's May Meeting

June 23, 2015 — I wanted to take a minute to offer a recap of our May 15th meeting. The focus of the meeting was to review the “lessons learned” materials regarding the 2015 PASS Business Analytics conference. The discussion was led by Jen Stirrup, Director of the PASS Business Analytics portfolio. Here are the highlights from that discussion.

Jen reviewed the growing industry trends for Business Analytics and how PASS can play a critical role in that community. Organizations need people who understand data in a variety of ways (curation, administration, management, custodian, and analysis). Business analytics enables companies to incorporate data-drive decision making. PASS is well positioned to offering learning opportunities for members to expand their current roles into new careers, as well as offer companies seeking BA practitioners a place to find talented data professionals.

The PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015 presented the right content for its audience. A review of attendee titles show that the conference attracted and engaged its intended audience. According to a sponsor survey from the conference, 87% of exhibitors and sponsors are interested in future PASS BA conferences.

The Board heard from PASS HQ representatives about the opportunity that PASS has to support the BA community. With Gartner predicting in excess of 4 million analytics jobs by the end of this year many companies are struggling to find talent. People who work in data with a focus on the Microsoft data platform want to learn methods for making data-based decisions. PASS can help to foster this community and present content to support those needs.

PASS is working hard to determine the best venue and logistics for future BA conference events. The Board discussed potential options as well as resources and strategic direction.

A full review of the PASS BA 2015 conference will be held at the in-person June Board meeting in Vancouver, Canada. For more details about the May meetings, see the posted minutes on the PASS Governance page. Also, keep an eye on the BA Insights and Connector newsletters and on this blog, for news from the next Board meeting.

As always, stay in touch by contacting us. We welcome any and all feedback!

Thomas LaRock
PASS President

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PASS Town Hall Q&A Webcast

June 18, 2015--The second quarterly Town Hall Q&A webcast took place on May 27, with more than 70 people in attendance. Thomas LaRock welcomed the audience and spoke about how the Board is continually looking at facilitating two-way communication within the community and how to contact the Board on the SQL PASS website. Before kicking off the session, Thomas introduced the panel:

    • Denise McInerney: PASS VP, Marketing (and moderator)
    • Amy Lewis: PASS Board Director at Large, Programs
    • Jennifer Moser: PASS Board, Microsoft-related questions
    • Lance Harra: Lead Program Manager, PASS Program Committee

With a focus on the Summit Speaker Selection process, the one-hour long webcast included an overview from myself (Amy Lewis, PASS Board of Director at large, Programs) on the process and timing from this year’s committee along with a considerable number of questions from the attendees for the Program Committee and the Board.

I thanked the panel and the program committee team and then summarized the committee’s processes for speaker selection.

In late January or early February, the Program Committee conducts a Call for Volunteers. Volunteers play a critical role in evaluating abstracts and helping to select community speakers. A total of 70 volunteers work together from mid-March until Summit. After the Call for Speakers closes in mid-March, the volunteers are broken into four teams:

Speaker Review Team: This team of eight volunteers review credentials, experience, and past attendee feedback to qualify speakers. This year, a total of 285 people submitted abstracts for Summit 2015, and the team goes through and rates each possible speaker. After all scores are submitted, the Speaker Review Team provides the Program Managers with the rankings.

Abstract Review Team: This team is tasked with reviewing the 886 abstracts submitted by the 285 potential speakers. Abstracts are reviewed by a minimum of three people. The team is divided into smaller teams for each of the five learning tracks and review accordingly. Feedback is given to every single abstract. The abstract review team first rates the abstract (without any speaker information or speakerID). After the teams have rated all the abstracts, they are tasked with ranking the abstracts for each track and recommending sessions to the Program Development Team.

The Program Committee offers guidance on the need for diversity of topics and speakers. At the outset, each speaker is assigned a speakerID number to maintain anonymity during scoring. Scorers can see whether they have ranked or recommended multiple abstracts from the same speakerID within a particular track, but they don’t know who that speaker is. This provides the team enough visibility to evaluate sessions and speakers for balance.

Program Development Team (Program Managers/Director): From May until the beginning of June, the program is built. The contributing factors include:

    • Rankings and recommendations from the individual teams
    • Topic, speaker, and session level
    • Repeat sessions from prior year
    • Session types (Pre-cons, Lightning talks, Half-day sessions, General sessions, and Labs)
    • Duplicate sessions
    • Depth and breadth of sessions across all tracks

After the Program Development team builds the Program, submitters are notified of their session status and, as of last year, are sent feedback on their abstract. After all submitters are notified, the community sessions are announced publicly by the end of June.

Special Project Team: From July onwards, the Special Project Team looks at the learning paths, predicting room assignment to ensure that rooms are not overcrowded and improving the schedule builder to be useful to both attendees and PASS Summit Operations teams.

Microsoft Sessions: Around early August, the Program Development Team works with Microsoft to understand what it wants to present and to ensure there is no overlap between Microsoft and the community sessions. This partnership has led to a more cohesive program where both the community and Microsoft sessions build upon and complement one another, leading to a fantastic and well-rounded program.

The Program Team is always open to feedback and ways to improve the Selection Process and the PASS Summit Program. We received feedback over the past year, and some of those changes were implemented this year:

    • In the process to review abstracts and the workflows for the team leads, all abstracts across all teams are now reviewed by at least three people.
    • The speaker profile was updated to allow for the submitter to list all their PASS and non-PASS presentation history. We are also working with IT to incorporate a lot of the SQLSaturday, Virtual Chapter, and User Group speaking events. We have been waiting until the rebuild of the SQLSaturday site is completed so that we can incorporate that functionality automatically. We wanted to be sure speakers could do that this year so we have implemented a table where you can add your speaker history. We added the video review, which was a request from the Speaker Review Team, so we can see samples of people speaking.
    • Improvements to the speaker resource page included updating the handbook, adding an FAQ page, and improving the process for the team leads.
    • Finally, the Program Team has improved the communication with the team leads through weekly calls and is working closely with PASS HQ and IT. Marcella and Leeza at PASS HQ were recognized for their support and commitment.

Amy introduced Lance Harra and explained that he has volunteered with the Program Team for 10 years and this year was promoted to Lead Program Manager.  In addition, Mindy Curnutt and Angela Henry have joined the Program Management Team to lead all the Program-related efforts throughout the year.

With an overview of the team and their responsibilities complete, the Q&A commenced with questions from the community. The full recording is available here. Look for more information about the next Q&A on the Board Contact Us page and in the Connector as we head into the next quarter.

Amy Lewis
PASS Board Member, Programs

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24 Hours of PASS: Growing our Community

June 16--Next week, beginning 12:00 (noon) GMT on June 24, PASS will present the 24 Hours of PASS: Growing our Community: 24 one-hour online webinars by talented speakers. The event will deliver SQL Server and BI best practices, expert tips, and demos from around the world, spread across these subject areas: 

  • Application & Database Development
  • BI Information Delivery
  • BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration
  • Cloud Application Development & Deployment
  • Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment
Professional Development


The sessions are free but each is limited to 1000 registrants, so advanced registration is important. Follow us by using the #pass24hop hashtag on social media. 

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PASS Executive Board Elections

June 16, 2015--The PASS Board of Directors meeting in Vancouver June 2 and 3 was the site of the 2016 PASS Executive Committee elections. We’re happy to announce your ExecCo, who will take their seats in January 2016: Thomas LaRock as Immediate Past President; Adam Jorgensen as President; James Rowland-Jones as Executive Vice President, Finance & Governance; and Denise McInerney as Vice President, Marketing.

Bill Graziano, current Immediate Past President, will conclude his term in December 2015. Bill has been an active member of the PASS community since 2001, having served five terms on the Board, including Director at Large in 2006/2007. Since 2008, he has sat on the Executive and has served in all four positions within the ExecCo. The PASS Board acknowledges and thanks Bill for his commitment and unwavering support to the PASS organization.

2016-2017 Immediate Past President: Thomas LaRock

PASS President Thomas LaRock will complete his current term (through the end of this year) and then assume the role of Immediate Past President. 

Thomas first attended PASS Summit in Orlando in 2004, joining the PASS community at that time. He joined the Board in 2009 and served one term as a Director at Large. He joined the Executive in 2012 as Vice President, Marketing and became President in 2014.

Thomas will chair the Nominations Committee (NomCom) for the 2016 and 2017 elections cycle as Immediate Past President. He will remain a valuable member of the Executive managing special projects. 

2016-2017 President: Adam Jorgensen

By unanimous vote, current Executive VP, Finance & Governance Adam Jorgensen was elected as the next PASS President and will assume the role in January. 

Adam has been a member of PASS since 2004, he joined the Board in 2012 and served one term as a Director at Large. As a leader of SQL Server and business intelligence organizations for more than a decade, he is passionate about encouraging and supporting innovation and busting through obstacles to implementation. At the meeting, Adam spoke to the Board about the importance of getting community members involved with PASS—and with PASS leadership.

”We [the Board] have an opportunity to make sure that the PASS organization is sustainable for the long term,” said Adam. “I’m interested in identifying leaders within the community; developing those individuals to assume leadership opportunities and ensuring that they are ready to assume the responsibility that comes with the Board. I believe that we need to remove roadblocks, and improve and formalize our processes for getting the best possible people involved in PASS.” 

Adam aims to improve communication with the PASS community to encourage balance, diversity, and commitment. And he spoke to the ways that PASS can offer benefits that grow with the Microsoft data platform. 

“The point of the Board is to represent the community it serves,” he noted. “That includes all data professionals. We need a vision; we need to find opportunities to help the Virtual Chapter and Chapter Leaders grow membership, involvement, and leadership. And with regards to the business analytics community, we need to define and focus our support efforts.”

2016-2017 Executive Vice President, Finance & Governance: James Rowland-Jones

The Board voted unanimously to elect James Rowland-Jones as next term’s Executive VP, Finance & Governance. JRJ has served two terms on the Board, with his first term supporting Global Growth and most recently as the Director of Special Projects. He looks forward to enriching and standardizing the visibility of PASS’ governance policies and working to support and improve the organization’s financial stability. 

JRJ emphasized the importance of collaboration, partnership, and shared learning. In the role of Executive VP, Finance & Governance, he encouraged other Board members to join him in the opportunity to set the framework for the future of the organization and to gain exposure to the role and its responsibilities.

JRJ’s focus is on articulating the opportunities and benefits of being involved with PASS and with the PASS Board, as well as working with our Global Growth Initiatives to support data professionals worldwide. “It’s important for the health and value of the organization,” he pointed out. “We have to think about the community as a living, breathing thing, and it’s our job to support and enrich it.”

2016-2017 Vice President, Marketing: Denise McInerney

The Board voted unanimously to re-elect VP, Marketing Denise McInerney to her current position. After 10 years as an active PASS member, Denise joined the Board in 2012 and first served as Director of Virtual Chapters. In her first year as VP, Marketing, she also chaired the Business Analytics Planning Committee. She is excited about the opportunity to continue her work on PASS’ communication and event initiatives.

“We’ve begun to take steps to get out the PASS message in an accessible, consistent way,” Denise said. “We have begun to talk about the opportunities for and accessibility of professional development and leadership, and we want to continue to do that. The Board Q&A at Summit was a start; the community town halls, the blog posts … we will continue to develop these vehicles.”

Denise emphasized the importance of better understanding PASS resources and of tailoring them to the community as it stands today and as it grows with ever-evolving technology and business demands. “With the Business Analytics Conference, we are on the right track,” she said. “The data world is changing and Microsoft is signaling that to us through all the changes to the data platform. We owe some attention to that content, as we think about our core SQL Server community, where their careers are headed, and the educational content that we need to bring to them.”


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