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Douglas McDowell's Articles

PASS Budget News: A New Event and Growing the PASS HQ Team

With the new fiscal year upon us, the PASS Board recently approved the latest budget effective July 1, 2012. Much thoughtful discussion has taken place over the last few months on how to allocate the budget to improve our support of the SQL Server community. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Hire an additional full-time Community Evangelist to work with the PASS HQ team
  • Secure IT support for much needed Chapter online tool improvements
  • Reinforce our Global Growth efforts to better support members around the world
  • Expand our Business Intelligence community by hosting a Business Analytics Conference 

A New Event
Let’s address that last point first. The PASS Summit has long been our main source of revenue for the PASS organization and we’ve been looking for ways to introduce additional revenue streams in order to diversify our risk. We have an opportunity to develop a focused conference with Microsoft's support, for a Business Analytics audience (an expanded Business Intelligence audience consisting of analysts, data scientists, technical decision makers, architects, DBAs and ITPros using Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint and Office technologies). We’re looking to host the PASS Business Analytics Conference in Spring 2013 in the US. Tune into the next few Connectors for more details as they become available. (Please note: PASS Summit will continue to offer a robust Business Intelligence educational offering around the SQL Server technologies!)

From a budgeting perspective, this initial BA Conference is projected to break-even. We’re considering this first event as an investment year with the hope of creating a more substantial revenue stream as the conference picks up momentum in ensuing years.

A New Hire
In 2011 our first Community Evangelist joined PASS to support the community by engaging with chapter leaders, event organizers, speakers, sponsors, and members on a daily basis. The community’s response has been tremendously positive – and we’re ready to add another Evangelist to the team. We’ve posted the job description and are actively seeking to fill the role.

Chapter Tool Improvements
With the help of a usability expert, Our DNN web developer, Benny Su, is working diligently to improve the online Chapter tools hosted on Improvements in member management, email functionality and better promotion of Chapter events are just some of the tasks already underway to help out both our members and hard working Chapter Leaders.

Global Growth
We’ve set aside budget to help fuel our global growth efforts  – notably the new community evangelist hire along with other PASS HQ resourcing support – but also legal fees to help PASS address issues of incorporation as well as legal, taxation, transaction and financial management, and IP rights.

Overall Budget Changes from FY2012

We’re estimating a 59% increase in both revenue and expenses for fiscal year 2013 – $8 million and $7.9 million dollars respectively.  Both these increases can be largely attributed to PASS Summit – we’re expecting more of the community to join us this year, which increases our overall costs of the event.  PASS’ overall profit is expected to increase 39% over last year for a total just shy of $100K which we will flow into our reserves.

A more detailed version of the budget will be published in the days ahead to the PASS Governance Page.



Partner. Not Sponsor.

PASS has great brand and name recognition in the technical community, and of course we host the largest annual SQL Server-focused technical education conference in the world.  A lot of companies consider PASS as a critical part of their marketing efforts —whether it be through or at a local, global, or virtual event. 

 PASS truly appreciates companies that sponsor our activities but PASS is not only looking for sponsors, we are looking for partners. The difference may be subtle to some or dramatic to others. We want the companies interested in reaching out to PASS members to immerse themselves in the community and establish a presence within multiple programs and events, encouraging their subject matter experts to share and learn with the community. PASS hopes that our sponsors—both large and small—transition to be partners.

This brings me to our unique relationship with Dell. Dell has been a top-tier sponsor for years, and Andrew Hargett from Dell keeps asking how they can get more involved with PASS and help the community more substantially. In addition to strong PASS Summit sponsorship, Dell has stepped up to support newer initiatives: 24 Hours of PASS, PASS SQLRally and PASS SQLSaturday.  In June, Dell provided a new SAN to PASS, refreshing the Dell SAN already in use. All PASS Hyper-V servers run on Dell and the new Dell SAN makes, our Exchange email, and all our Chapter and Virtual Chapter webhosting and media hosting possible.

As one of the largest IT users of SQL Server, Dell sells more SQL Server software than anyone…period! Dell is committed to support PASS and the SQL Server community and as Andrew has conveyed to me, taking our partnership to the next level will allow Dell to better understand the challenges and needs of our users and help deliver the right solutions to meet the demands of customers from across the globe.

Thank you Dell for partnering with PASS. We look forward to many more successful years together.



Q2 Chapter Survey Shows Strong Community "Reach"

Early in 2010 Blythe Morrow and I set out to get a better understanding of the makeup and needs of the PASS community as represented by our Chapters.  To connect better with Chapters we initiated quarterly surveys.  For the initial Q1 survey 49% of Chapters responded and I published the results a March blog: .  The survey participation and feedback was great; at that point I set goals for future surveys: 60% Chapter participation per survey and 80% participation from Chapters overall across all 2010 surveys.

In July Nancy Nasso and I closed-out the Q2 Chapter Survey, and I am finally getting around to summarizing the results for you.  Of PASS’s 207 Chapters, 127 Chapter Leaders (61%) responded to the Q2 Survey.  We beat my 60% participation goal – these results are a very good representation of our current Chapters.  A personal “thank you” to all the leaders that participated.

Here’s what Chapter Leaders told us about their Chapters:

·         76% of Chapters that responded have a membership of 500 or less

·         81% of Chapters that responded have regular attendance of between 10-50

·         33% of Chapters that responded have 6-10 meetings per year, 44% have 11-16, and 20% have fewer than 6

To better understand the technical focus/interests of PASS members we asked Chapters the percentage of coverage (at meetings) they provide to general topic areas, a combined metric I call “topic mix.”

·         27% Application Development

·         25% Business Intelligence

·         38% Database Administration

·         10% Professional Development or other topics

There are always open issues surrounding our premium annual benefit to our Chapters: one complimentary registration to either the North American Summit or the European Conference each fiscal year (July-June).  For simplicity I will just call this benefit a “Summit comp.”  There is always some misunderstanding that this is not an easy or free benefit for PASS to offer, the actual cost for a Summit comp is high since all the event facilities and food and beverage are all charged per-attendee plus incremental consumption – it adds up quick and requires a lot of allocated budget.  The “issues” come in because PASS is not in the business of applying strict policies to our Chapters, so every year Chapters that are doing a TON for PASS and Chapters that are doing NOTHING for PASS are equally awarded a Summit comp.  Having provided that context, we included this question on the survey: “PASS offers each Chapter [a Chapter comp]. We are reviewing the requirements Chapters must meet to qualify for a registration and want your candid input regarding what those requirements should be. As a dedicated volunteer, what do you think? 

Honestly (and as one might expect) we got a lot of quick answers; perhaps I did not choose the wording well or respondents did not consider the depth of the question.  Some thought we were not doing enough while others thought we needed to be much stricter, the most common response was that the status quo was okay.  (If you are intrigued and would have preferred that I classify, categorize and objectify all the rambling free text responses, just send an email to  and I can send you the detailed almost-raw-but-still-anonymous responses.)

The Regional Mentor (RM) program is critical to Chapter success moving forward and this is a focus area for the second half of 2010, so we wanted to know about RM interaction and asked about that:

·         50% of Chapters that responded have been contacted by their Regional Mentor this year

·         51% of Chapters that responded knew the name of their Regional Mentor

We also asked for any recent Chapter news as well as feedback on the new Chapter Leader Only Pages (CLO Pages), internal sub-site on used to post resources and communicate with Chapter Leaders.  Adoption of the CLO Pages is still cranking up so responses were spotty but overall positive.

Before I wrap up, I want to unscientifically model something for you… just to give you a ballpark feel of the current “reach” of PASS Chapters, their impact on the community.  “Reach” is calculated by multiplying the number of attendees by the number of educational hours.  To use our survey data we can get a ballpark feel for our “reach” by multiplying the average number of attendees by number of meetings in the past 12 months by the number of educational hours. 

I prepped the Q2 survey responses the best I could by making all the ranges discrete for Average Attendance and Meetings in Last 12 Months; and I assumed each meeting delivered one (1) education hour.  That calculation yielded a “reach” of 41,656 educational hours in the last 12 months for the 61% of Chapters that responded; a simple extrapolation to 100% would yield a “reach” of 68,289 educational hours!  Using the topic mix hours reported by each Chapter (I used category averages for Chapters that didn’t provide data) that would break out to:

·         Application Development
10,785 hours (extrapolated to 100% = 17,681 hours)       

·         Business Intelligence
11,090 hours (extrapolated to 100% = 18,180 hours)

·         Database Administration
16,138 hours (extrapolated to 100% = 26,455 hours)

·         Professional Development or other topics 
3,643 hours (extrapolated to 100% = 5,972 hours)

·         Total “Reach” - again 
41,656 hours (extrapolated to 100% = 68,289 hours)

Wow, wasn’t that fun?!

Again, I want to thank all the Chapter Leaders who took the time to respond to the Q2 survey, please be on the lookout for the Q3 survey.  I trust the Q2 survey feedback has been a helpful and interesting look at our Chapters; with each survey we hope to better understand the needs of our Chapters, Chapter Leaders, and members.  Please send me your feedback on these surveys—what items should we be asking about next?

— Douglas

Douglas McDowell
PASS Director of Chapters


Summit forums - Volunteers Needed!

If forums are your game - then please send me your name!

We are actively searching for volunteers for the following:

1. Two (2) main moderators who assist the administrator on the Summit forums; they will also help “seed” boards by starting topics, asking questions, and engaging posters [estimated time about 15-30 minutes daily; avg = 2.5 hrs/week]
2. Two (2) “seeders” whose main job is to start topics and engage posters on a regular basis to keep conversation flowing on the Summit forums.[estimated time about 15 minutes daily; avg = 2 hrs/week]

This is a great way to get involved and gauge the pulse of the Summit. If you are interested, please send me an email at (submission deadline is July 30, 2010)

Thanks in advance!


Nancy Nasso, Community Coordinator

Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Headquarters

Phone: 604.899.6269 I Fax: 604.899.1269 I Email: I


Important PASS Community News: a farewell to Blythe

I have difficult news to share with the PASS community:  After careful consideration Blythe Morrow is leaving PASS HQ.  Blythe's time with PASS officially ends on July 1 and she will be moving back to Edmonton, Alberta to be closer to her family. 
Blythe has spent the last two years of her career as our Community Programs Coordinator working closely with Greg Low and myself as well as most of you reading this.  During her tenure she has been instrumental in facilitating incredible growth, instituting new governance and support programs, and most importantly helping us all to realize how much fun PASS can be.  While PASS will continue to thrive and succeed certainly our individual experiences will be a little different without Blythe.
While no transition is easy, we are being placed into very capable hands.  Over the last three months Blythe and Nancy Nasso have been working together, Nancy has quickly become a strong contributor to numerous PASS community functions and projects and will be working to assume other duties and responsibilities prior to Blythe’s departure.
Thank you all for your support and appreciation of Blythe over the last two years, please make a point to reach out to her directly to thank her and wish her well.  Also thank you for your flexibly and new appreciation for Nancy as she steps up during the next weeks and months.


Douglas McDowell
PASS Director of Chapters


SQL Server 2008 R2 Launch: US Tour Kicks Off May 4th 2010 in DC!

More than 18 months ago when many of us first heard about SQL Server 2008 R2 it sounded like it might be just a big service pack or just adding some bolt-ons so that some SharePoint/Office 2010 features could work with SQL Server – maybe not unlike SQL Server 2005 SP2 that let us first run Reporting Services in Integrated Mode with SharePoint 2007.  But as we have crept closer to the release of R2, started to work with the Betas and CTPs we discovered it represents some significant new features (Application and Multi-server Management, StreamInsight, PowerPivot for Excel/SharePoint 2010, Report Builder 3.0, Reporting Services shared components and advanced data visualizations) as well as more-than-service-pack version maturity and stability… And now that R2 has released we can participate in Launch hoopla similar to full-version releases. 

Microsoft has partnered with PASS to assemble an impressive R2 Launch Tour, you can find the full roster here:

I personally had the opportunity to participate in the R2 Launch event collocated with TechDays 2010 in Lisbon April 20-22, I was part of the April 21 keynote where it was announced that SQL Server 2008 R2 had been released to manufacturing (RTM) and I announced the formation of the first Portuguese PASS Chapter: SQLPort.  In a similar vein, on Tuesday May 4, I attended the first US R2 Launch Event hosted in the nation’s capital: Washington, DC! 

The DC event had a noticeable air to it: a mixture of energy and the sense of arrival.  Event excitement (attendees, speakers, event team) coupled with the sheer enjoyment of presenting a new product release.  It was a bit of a reunion for those of us that have been on past launch circuits (i.e. Fever and Planes) as well as those of us working hard leading up to the R2 release… the halls were lined with the familiar faces of Microsoft and community stakeholders assuring they witness this kickoff event. 

Each Launch event is hosted by a local PASS chapter, the Northern Virginia SQL Server Users Group ( hosted the DC event and Chapter Leader Jim Rotan welcomed the attendees and introduced the keynote speaker, Stefan Ropers.   Stefan covered Microsoft’s Data Platform Vision along with an introduction to SQL Server 2008 R2.  Herain Oberoi followed with deeper introductions to the three “pillars” of R2: Trusted & Scalable Platform, Managed Self-Service BI, and IT & Developer Efficiency.  The rest of the day was made up of breakout session separated into tracks—each with three sessions—for DBA, BI and ITDM (IT Decision Maker); unique to the DC event, there was also a forth Federal Government-targeted track.  The DBA track included sessions on Business Continuity (SQL2008R2, Win2008, Hyper-V Live Migration), R2 Multi-server Management, and SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse.  The BI track covered PowerPivot for Excel/SharePoint 2010, Reporting Services and Report Builder 3.0, and Master Data Management.  The ITDM sessions were: SQL Azure, Oracle to SQL Server 2008 R2 Migration, and BI Consolidation.  Overall the event started and ended well, interest and feedback from the attendees was positive and as I ducked in and out of various sessions throughout the day I saw that most everyone stayed for the entire event. 

If you can locate an event within striking distance (use schedule link above), I would recommend you make plans to attend an R2 Launch, there is enough high-quality varied content offered that you should be able to make a full day for yourself regardless of if you have only just learned of SQL Server 2008 R2 or if you have been working with it since beta cycles. 

After revving up with Launch you can access ongoing R2 education through many PASS channels:


Douglas McDowell
PASS Director of Chapters


Survey Results Show Top Chapter Needs

A key challenge PASS faces as a user-run organization is, ironically, identifying the needs of our community, collecting feedback, and understanding issues. One of the best cross sections of the PASS community is the local Chapters. In an effort to better plug in to our Chapters in a structured manner, we have begun a series of Chapter Leader surveys. We hope these surveys can help us identify how PASS can better serve every Chapter Leader and member. Surveys are often considered more art than science, but our intentions are pretty simple and straightforward: We want to gather basic information in each survey and include questions that will help us better understand the grass roots of the organization.

Last week we closed out our first Chapter survey, and I want to share the results with you. Of PASS’s 211 Chapters, an impressive 104 Chapter Leaders (49%) responded to the survey, making the results more than a sampling of current Chapters. I would personally like to thank everyone who participated. Here’s what Chapter Leaders told us about their Chapters:

  • 73% of Chapters that responded have a membership of 500 or less
  • 74% of Chapters that responded have regular attendance of between 10-50
  • 39% of Chapters that responded have 6-10 meetings per year, 33% have 11-16, and 24% have fewer than 6
  • 49% of Chapters that responded took advantage of PASS’s one complimentary registration and sent a representative to either PASS Summit 2009 or European Conference 2008; most of those who didn’t send a representative said they couldn’t afford the associated travel expenses or time away from work or their Chapters were new (they were established only shortly before or since those conferences)

We asked Chapters about what PASS services they were currently benefiting most from. (Note that the Chapter Leaders who responded are more likely to be actively engaged with PASS, so it is possible some numbers reflect higher-than-average usage):

  • 61% use the monthly Chapter meeting PowerPoint presentation
  • 51% take advantage of the complimentary TechNet subscription
  • 49% use PASS Webhosting
  • 47% use LiveMeeting services
  • 30% use Regional Mentor support, which is a focus area for 2010

When we asked Chapter Leaders to rank which potential PASS services/benefits would help them be more successful, Chapter Leaders responded as follows:

  • 65% rated “Email/Newsletter functionality for Webhosted sites” as their #1 or #2 priority
  • 55% marked “Event Registration” as priority #1 or #2
  • 34% rated “Sponsor Bureau” as priority #1 or #2
  • 29% ranked “Speaker Bureau” as priority #1 or #2

It has been my experience that all these potential services/benefits are very important, but these results are in tune with the top two requested services/benefits I noted in the Chapters Vision for 2010 blog. This aligns with our goal in late 2010 or 2011 of making Chapter Webhosting more robust with added event management and membership email capabilities (announcements/newsletters).

We also asked Chapter Leaders for specific feedback on a planned PASS Chapter Speakers Bureau, which could provide a central place for SQL Server speakers to register, load their presentation decks, and designate areas they will travel to. Moreover, speakers can identify if they are available to deliver LiveMeeting presentations. Even though the Speakers Bureau did not rank top in the PASS services/benefits mentioned above, the amount of survey feedback it received shows that it remains an acute need. According to the survey results, Chapters’ primary needs in a Speakers Bureau are:

  • 77%: Access to all speakers who live in local regions
  • 59%: Ability to search by the following (speaker name, topic name, location, travel radius, evaluation score, availability for a meeting date)
  • 47%: Access to speaker schedules so Chapters can know when speakers are traveling
  • 39%: Remote (virtual) speakers
  • 34%: Emergency speaker list – finding a speaker when there is a last minute cancellation
  • 26%: Post feedback on presentations that can be viewed/searched by other chapter/event leaders

Again, I want to thank all the Chapter Leaders who took the time to respond to this first survey, and I look forward to great participation in each survey in the future. I trust this summary gives the PASS membership a better window into our Chapters. With each survey and feedback channel, we hope to better understand the needs of our Chapters, Chapter Leaders, and members. In the meantime, I encourage your feedback—please let me know what items we should be asking about in the future.

— Douglas

Douglas McDowell
PASS Director of Chapters

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Chapters Vision for 2010

It is March already, and I have been spending all my PASS time in 2010 talking to Chapter Leaders and Regional Mentors about what we are doing in the Chapters portfolio in 2010. Now I’d like to get a broader update out to the community about what we are doing and the exciting things we have planned.

Chapters Vision for 2010: 3 Key Goals
Since my time as a leader of Atlanta.mdf (Atlanta, Georgia’s PASS Chapter) and as one of the first PASS Regional Mentors, I’ve had a passion for working with local chapters. So serving as the director of Chapters (virtual and physical) for PASS is an honor and a real treat for me.

Under the leadership of Greg Low, Blythe Morrow, and the Chapters Committee over the past 2 years, we’ve experienced phenomenal growth in the number of PASS Chapters around the world. We had 205 Chapters in 50+ countries as of January 2010, which is a 57% growth compared to the same time last year. And thanks to Thomas LaRock’s work in helping transition our Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to Virtual Chapters last summer, we currently have seven Virtual Chapters and have witnessed a huge ramp-up in free virtual training from many of those groups.

While continuing to build on that momentum and growth in numbers for 2010, we also want to make sure that all our Chapters are healthy, active, and growing in value to meet the needs of their members. In that spirit, we have three over-arching goals this year: Sustainability, Infrastructure, and Increased Value Proposition.

Launching a Chapter and keeping it going—and going strong—is hard work. For new Chapters, we need to assure that they are set up properly and that they have the support and information they need to start off on the right foot and survive those crucial early months. Existing Chapters go through rough times, too—experiencing peaks and valleys. So we need to be there for them as well, whether they need resources to help grow programs even more or push past a membership plateau or whether they are facing serious problems.

Our sustainability strategy includes providing a rich set of resources, leveraging the wisdom of our experienced Chapter Leaders, Regional Mentors, other volunteers, and PASS headquarters (HQ) resources. How to successfully set up a Chapter, best practices for running and  growing a Chapter, resources for finding speakers and sponsors, and other intellectual property will be readily available online. Plus, we are strengthening our Regional Mentors Program even more, working through those key PASS ambassadors to provide key communications and support to chapters in their area and feed the needs and ideas of their Chapters back to PASS.

A strong, effective infrastructure is essential for sustainability at the Chapter level. Both our people and our technology assets are critical infrastructure focus areas.  We are evaluating how to support and align our Regional Mentors to provide a more robust and scalable program that meets Chapter Leader and membership needs.

PASS HQ is expanding the team responsible for community-related support, so Blythe will not be constantly treading water trying to stay on top of it all by herself. In the area of technology, we have a few projects in the queue: We are on the verge of rolling out a sub-site on that will be dedicated to Chapter Leaders, housing announcements, content/IP, and other resources all in one place. In late 2010 or 2011, we want to make Chapter webhosting more robust with added event management and membership email capabilities (announcements/newsletters). Internally, we will add infrastructure to transition to a Chapter management database (so we can get away from current tools like Google Docs).

Increased Value Proposition
Communicating and expanding the value that PASS brings to Chapters is critical for attracting new Chapters and for improving the quality and strength of all Chapters. The first step here is creating a comprehensive inventory of all the benefits we provide Chapters. That list currently includes the free webhosting I mentioned earlier, a Live Meeting and TechNet subscription from Microsoft UGSS, event sponsorship and program support, a free Chapter Leader registration to one PASS conference per year, access to the Chapter Leader Listserver, PASS Regional Mentor support, and more.

Through the Regional Mentors and a full set of helpful Chapter Welcome Kits and Resource Kits, we’ll communicate everything that’s available to our Chapters and how they can access those benefits. Then we’ll loop back with Chapters around the world to explore how PASS can continue to expand its value proposition.

Thanks for what's ahead...
It’s going to be an exciting year. We are trying to move a lot forward at once, and we are starting to gain momentum. I look forward to working side-by-side with our dedicated volunteers and PASS staff to support our Chapters as they serve the SQL Server technical community. Thanks to each of you for your work!

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