Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Growing PASS Step Two: Value

In Growing PASS Step One: Communication I talked about how I think that PASS could grow by communicating the vision and goals of the organization clearly and in a place that is easy to find.  This post continues on the theme of communication by adding value. 

As a local chapter leader I do everything I can to “sell” PASS to my members, but what am I really selling?  Here is what PASS offers right now:

  1. The PASS Summit – this is, in my opinion, THE best SQL Server conference in the world.  Yet, out of the membership in my local chapter three of us went to the 2009 Summit.  One of the three is a member of the PASS Board of Directors so he had to go, the other was a speaker, and I was the third, a chapter leader, and this was my first Summit.  I loved the Summit, I’m going back and, if I ever change jobs, negotiating the Summit as part of my employment contract.  Yet, even with all the love Andy Warren, Kendal Van Dyke, and I show for the Summit, we can’t get our group excited about it.
  2. Local Chapters – I’ve had this discussion a few times, but really, wouldn’t there still be local user groups without PASS?  PASS does offer some minimal sponsorship and some resources, but I OPASS would continue if PASS didn’t exist.
  3. Virtual Chapters – I think these are GREAT, but there are other options for online training (see my post, No Training Budget, No Excuse, for just a few).
  4. SQLSaturday – PASS acquired this asset recently and that means it was started by someone else which means another similar option could come up at any time.
  5. SQLRally – a new, less-expensive, regional PASS sponsored event, the first one will be held May 11-13 in Orlando, FL, that is being planned to bridge the gap between SQLSaturday and the Summit and provide another link the “farm system” of PASS.  I’m a bit biased as one of the SQLRally planners, but I think this event is a great idea for PASS, in its current form.
  6. PASS web site – there is some good content in the form of top 10 lists and articles, but, in all honesty, SQLServerCentral and MSSQLTIPS do it better.

When you look at this list, you think (well, at least I do), “PASS offers a lot of stuff!”, but why isn’t affecting the day to day lives of the average SQL Server professional?  Here’s what I think?  Everything on that list, can be gotten elsewhere as well and I mentioned some other options.  What CAN PASS offer that professionals can’t get elsewhere?

  1. Professional Development Standards – many professions require continuing education to maintain a certification or to show professional growth for example, health professionals and teachers.  While PASS is not a regulatory body, I think it should offer some type of recommended standards that a person can point to a say, “Here’s what my professional association says I need to do stay current and here’s what I’ve done”.
  2. Certification – something between the Microsoft MCTS and MCITP certifications (in my opinion these are best used as study guides) and the MCM (not realistic for most professionals).  This really goes along with #1 and adds to it.  PASS also needs to marker this certification to businesses so that hiring managers can see the value of this certification.  For the current MCITP certifications I hear as much bad said about them as good.
  3. Support for chapters.  I’d love to see more focus on providing support for chapters in handling funds, better tools, and guidance in getting setup and recruiting volunteers.  I think PASS has really done some work here in the last year, since Douglas McDowell has had the chapter portfolio, but there is a lot left to be done.  It may be that I have not used the resources available, but I know other chapter leaders have said the same thing.
  4. Focused Training for non-Techinical topics – I’d love to see an effort to put together some curriculum’s for specific non-technical topics.  For example, Kevin Kline’s series of articles on Leadership would be a great place to start.  We get lots of technical training, but soft skills are becoming more and more important for technologists to have.  Almost every job posting I see talks about communication skill, both written and verbal.

These are some areas where I think PASS could and should lead the way.  I have seen progress in some of these areas, but there could be more done.

What are your thoughts?  What could PASS do that you would find value in?

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