So, in my last post, I described the financial pressures of community building; two companies benefit from building a community organization. Iâ€™ve tried to stay away from assumptions, but I am assuming that their influence must factor into the Board of Directorsâ€™ decision making process (Microsoft has a seat on the board; C&C is dependent on the decisions that the BoD makes). The metrics that matter most to Microsoft are the breadth of people interested in their product line, not the depth of knowledge attained by those people.
Influence isnâ€™t a bad thing per se, but in my mind, it does explain why good people continue to make bad decisions, regardless of who gets elected to the board. What do I mean by a bad decision? In general, the Professional Association for SQL Server BoD remains a non-committal and opaque organization. Board members have personally promised me that â€śthey would look into somethingâ€ť, and yet the follow-thru never materialized; the opacity of the decision making process is documented by other other bloggers in posts like the following:
SIDEBAR: I will say that the Board continues to work on the transparency problem; Jen Stirrup and Tom LaRock have both stepped forward to explain decisions made. However, such explanations are usually given after a controversy has occurred.
For a specific example, I want to focus on the branding decision (the decision to remove SQL Server from marketing material for the Professional Association of SQL Server and to be know simply as PASS); the decision to move the organization away from its lingua franca of SQL Server to a new common language of â€śall things (Microsoft) dataâ€ť is not in and of itself a bad thing. Recent marketing trends from Microsoft indicate that the traditional role of the DBA is continuing to evolve; as individuals, we need to evolve as well.
However, as database professionals (or data professionals), we should be inclined to make decisions based on data. As Jen Stirrup herself says:
I think itâ€™s important to have a data-based, fact based look at the business analytics sphere generally. What does the industry say about where the industry is going? What does the data say? We can then look at how PASS fits in with this direction.
Jenâ€™s post goes on to state some great statistics about the nature of the industry as a whole, but then uses some less concrete measures (growth of the BA/BI Virtual Chapters) to identify support within the organization. I generally agree with her conclusions, but Iâ€™m concerned about several unanswered questions, most of them stemming from two numbers:
- Association marketing materials claim we have reached over 100,000 professionals, and
- 11,305 members were eligible to vote (a poor measure of involvement, but does indicate recent interaction).
I look at those two numbers and wonder why that gap is there; just for simplicityâ€™s sake, letâ€™s say that 90% of â€śmembersâ€ť have not updated their profile. Why? What could the Association have done to reach those members? Who are those members? What are their interests? Whatâ€™s a better metric for gauging active membership?
Of course, once I start asking questions, I begin to ask more questions: How many members donâ€™t fit into Microsoftâ€™s vision of cloud-based computing? How many members use multiple technologies from the Microsoft data analysis stack? What skills should they be taught? What skills do they have? What features do they want? The short answer: we donâ€™t know.
As far as I know, there has been no large scale data collection effort by the Board of Directors to help guide their decisions; in the absence of data, good managers make a decision based on experience, but then strive to collect data to help with future decisions. Continuing to rely on experience and marketing materials without investing in understanding member concern, desires, and input is simply put, a bad decision.
Shifting an organization that shared a common love for a particular technology to an organization that is more generally interested in data is a huge undertaking; overlooking the role that the community should have in determining the path of that transition is an oversight. I donâ€™t think the Professional Association for SQL Server is going to revert back to a technology-specific focus; that would be inconsistent with the changing nature of our profession. However, the Board needs to continue to understand who the membership is, and how the organization can help a huge number of SQL Server professionals transition to â€śdata professionalsâ€ť. Building a bigger umbrella may help the organization grow; investing in existing community members will help the organization succeed.