Fedora

Let’s Plan Events in EMEA!

At EMEA FAD in Leverkusen, we started planning events and activities in EMEA for the fiscal year 2016 (starts on March 1, 2015). Right after that, I asked others, who couldn’t attend the FAD, to provide their input. Today, I put it all together on a new wiki page that should help us organize events where we want to promote Fedora in the next year.

I’d like to make the event planning more sophisticated. In the last two years, we’ve made a really good job in budgeting. We know where we will be and how much it will cost. Now, I’d like to add something more, so that we know why we will be there, what impact it will have, and if it’s somewhat aligned with the overall strategy of the Fedora Project.

That’s why the list of events on the wiki page is much more detailed than it ever was. And it’s not a closed list, you can still add an event if you want to go represent Fedora there and need support from us (even if you don’t need support, we still appreciate if you add the event, we’d like to know where Fedora is present). Based on this table, we will create a budget for the next year, and based on this budget, we will get money from Red Hat for events and activities in EMEA, so if you apply now it’s much easier to provide you with some funding because once the budget is finished we have to cover anything else from reserves and leftovers and those are very limited.

The new planning should also discover our shortcomings and help us work on them. So far, we, for example, don’t have any events planned outside Europe (nothing in Africa and Middle East 😦 ). The only well-covered region is the Central Europe. We don’t cover the Balkans (Former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria) at all, no events in the Baltic countries, just two in Scandinavia. No events is such large countries as France, Poland, or Spain. We’re also too focused on traditional Linux/FOSS events where the audience usually already knows us and we don’t go to events that are a bit of our comfort zone, but our target audience is there (events for developers, makers,…).
I hope we will improve this a lot in FY2016.

Fedora

Fedora Regional Budgets in FY2014

The fiscal year of the Fedora Project and all our financial terms follow Red Hat which means that our fiscal year ended February 28th. Since then FAmSCo and regional treasurers have been working on making the final account for the just ended fiscal year. It mostly involved catching all late expenses from the last quarter. And the results?

EMEA – $21,940 spent out of $22,100 budget – I was actually surprised we ended up so close to the limit, spending everything we’ve been given and not overspending. I know managing budgets and expenses is difficult for employees of Red Hat, you can imagine how hard it is in a community of volunteers spread all over the continent.

LATAM – $12,436 spent out of $12,100 budget – LATAM overspent a bit, but it’s very much in the “OK” zone and I’m actually glad that they dealt very well with the new situation that planning and budgeting is now in their hands.

APAC – $9,591 spent out of $17,100 budget – unlike LATAM, APAC had problems to spend what they projected mainly due to the fact that many events they planned never happened. Definitely a lesson learned for the future.

NA – N/A – it’s the only region where we don’t have a clear picture how the money were spent because there was no community tracking of expenses. Many expenses there are paid directly by redhatters and are not reported reported back to the community immediately like in other regions.We hope to improve this.

And what are our budgets for this fiscal year? I think Ruth Suehle allocated the budget among regions quite fairly mainly based on what the regions fulfilled the plans in the last year:

NA – $43,850
EMEA – $32,000
APAC – $12,650
LATAM – $16,500

And if you wonder what’s being paid from these regional budgets it’s mainly swag (stickers, badges, case badges, mugs, hats, fliers), media, travel and lodging subsidies for Fedora contributors to represent Fedora at various events etc. Although it’s mostly handled by ambassadors it’s open to any Fedora contributors.

 

Fedora

FAD Rheinfelden and EMEA budget for FY2015

Last month, we again got together in Rheinfelden to plan Fedora activities in the EMEA region for the next year (Fedora follows the fiscal year of Red Hat that starts in March and because it’s named after the calendar year it ends in, the next fiscal year is 2015).

This time I chose to fly instead of going by bus. And it was a much more pleasant option. I left home in Brno at 9am, joined Miro Hroncok at Prague Airport, and landed in Basel at 3pm. The attendance was much better than last year. In September, I approached most active ambassadors and asked them to sign up. It seemed to work because most of them really came. There were 17 ambassadors from 9 countries.

DSC03654

We started Saturday with country presentations. Ambassadors of each country prepared a presentation about activities in their location in the last year or two. Then we came to the most important agenda of the FAD: creating a list of events and activities we want to do in FY2015 and making a budget based on this. Today, I put all the numbers together and made the first draft of the EMEA budget for the fiscal year 2015. The total amount is $39,900 which is higher than last year when we asked for $32,000. But because our options were a bit limited after cuts in the current year and because it looks like we’re going to spend up all our budget, we are going to ask for more. But it’s just a draft. We will discuss drafts of regional budgets in FAmSCo before we propose final versions to FPL and OSAS.

In the evening, Gerold, our host in Rheinfelden, prepared another great social event: kart races. Sunday morning was pretty much devoted to discussion. We discussed the Fedora.NEXT proposals and what it means for ambassadors. It was definitely a heated discussion. I also proposed that we should more focus on events that are out of traditional Linux circles because that means real outreach. Most people already know us at Linux conferences. We also discussed another of my proposals: that we should more focus on schools, mainly universities because that’s the biggest source of open source contributors has always been.

DSC03758

The FAD ended after noon when we were leaving home, with even stronger feeling that the EMEA FAD is worth organizing and traveling. I and Miro had to cross the bridge over the Rhine from German Rheinfelden to Swiss Rheinfelden where we took a train to Zurich Airport to fly back to Prague.

Photos by Joerg Simon.

Fedora

Fedora EMEA Budget – Q2

The the second quarter of the fiscal year is over and my job is to hunt down all expenses made in EMEA and close the quarterly account. There is still one payment left, but it’s not so significant, so I think I can safely sum up the quarter. It’s been easy this time because Q2 was quite boring in terms of expenses. We produced Fedora 19 media where we achieved even a lower price than before. We paid just $1668 for 4000 dual-layer DVDs which is only $.41 for one. I remember we paid twice or three times more to the old vendor.

We also paid much less than expected for shipping. We had pretty high shipping costs and after the budget cuts I had to look for a cheaper solution. Now, we ship packages with Czech Post which is a standard postal service. I shipped a lot of packages all around EMEA (quite a few outside EU) and the total cost was $701. There are also some disadvantages. Delivery times are longer than with Fedex or DHL we used before. It’s just a few days within EU, but it could be a couple of weeks if you ship to Africa.  We also can’t track packages all the way to the final destination. Postal services outside EU either don’t have tracking or don’t share it with Czech Post. And packages more likely end up stuck at customs. On the other hand, DHL and Fedex were completely out of our budget possibilities.

Due to these savings, we’re on track with our annual budget. We’ve spent $13,208 in the first two quarters and there is $8,892 left in the annual budget and planned expenses are $9,463 which is just slightly more.

In the next several weeks, I’d like to arrange a quarterly budget meeting where all regional treasurers and the Fedora budget owner get together and discuss the budget situation in all regions. We have to make sure that spending in all regions is on track and we don’t spend too much or too little.

Fedora

Fedora EMEA Budget – Q1

At the beginning of the year, FAmSCo ratified changes in budget, approval, and reimbursement processes. One of the benefits is that we have control over the money Red Hat has given us for regional support. One of the changes was to start proper budgeting and track all expenses we’re doing.

I’m a treasurer for EMEA which means I’m responsible for spending in the EMEA region. Yes, that’s the unpopular guy who always says we have to save money, can’t spend that much etc. 🙂

Today, I finally closed the first quarter of the fiscal year 2014. It means I’ve collected all expenses and closed the entries. And what are the results?

Events:      $9350 (Planned)      $8554 (Allocated – after cuts)      $7782 (actually spent)
SWAG production:      $1500     $1500      $1413
Shipping:      $500      $200      $0
Total: $11,350      $10,254      $9195
The complete budget is on Fedora wiki.

As you can see, we were able to save some money on events although there were two events which weren’t included in the original plan. SWAG spending was fairly close to the limit because it’s something you can plan and control the most easily. It’s also amazing what we were able to produce for $1413. It’s mainly due to a new vendor who produces quality stuff for incredible prices. We didn’t spend any money on shipping. That’s something very seasonal. We ship most packages after releases. Fedora is usually released at the end of Q1, but this year it landed in Q2. I’m pretty sure that what we saved on shipping in Q1 will come in handy in Q2 because I’ve already shipped many packages to many countries all over Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

We saved $1059 from the allocated money. It’s a reserve for the next quarters and it’s also a virtual reserve because the allocated budget is still about $3000 over the limit Red Hat gave us. Because the EMEA budget had to be painfully cut at the beginning of the fiscal year, I’m still steering the budget above the limit and hoping there will be some money saved in our budget or left in other budgets at the end of the fiscal year to meet the limit. But strictly speaking, by saving $1059 in Q1 we just met the limit and didn’t create any reserve.

And that’s enough of boring numbers for today 🙂

Fedora

FAm Budget and Governance Reform

We’ve entered the new fiscal year in which we’re facing a lot of changes and new things. No, I’m not talking about GNOME 4 or systemd 2 🙂 I mean changes in governance of Fedora Ambassadors. In FAmSCo, we worked on one of the biggest changes in how Fedora Ambassadors (and other contributors, too, because they’re not excluded) can spend money. But before I start explaining all the changes, let me state problems we were facing and reasons why we did the changes:

  • Our spending was decreasing. It sounds like something good, but in fact, it meant that we were doing less and less activities. Financial deporting wasn’t good (it was something we couldn’t really influence) and the whole community including FAmSCo lived in uncertainty how much money we have spent and how much we still can spend. So we rather didn’t spend. And because the classic corporate rule says “if you don’t spend it, you’ll lose it”, Fedora’s budget was shrinking.
  • FAmSCo evaluated almost all funding requests, so instead of focusing on “big” problems, we were dealing with day-to-day problems which is something a steering committee is not for.
  • Decision-making was pretty centralized and local communities were not so involved.

And here are the changes:

  • BUDGETING – first we wanted to remove the uncertainty which caused that we were afraid to spend money and do activities. Before that, FAmSCo was just approving requests and kept asking CommArch/OSAS if we still have money left and mostly we didn’t get any answer because of slow financial reporting. Now, we actually do budget planning and ask OSAS for an annual budget for the upcoming year. It has two positive outcomes: 1. we actually know how much we can spend and if we properly track our expenses we don’t even have to rely on Red Hat’s financial reporting and know how much money we have left. 2. if you’re making a budget and asking for money, you have to have an idea how to spend them. So instead of planning just expenses you actually plan activities on which you spend money. Of course, you can’t plan everything. There are always unexpected activities, new opportunities. We don’t want to turn them down just because we don’t have them in the budget. That’s why there is a treasurer/budget wrangler in each region that adjust and balance the budget. Budgeting is new to us, so this fiscal year is going to be a lot about gaining experience.
  • POWER TO REGIONS! we also believe that the power should be closer to community members. So we decided that the overall budget would be divided into 4 regional budgets: NA, EMEA, LATAM APAC. Each region had to think about what activities they’d do this fiscal year and how to fund them. It really helped some regions because until then they had hardly done any planning and had problems to spend money allocated to them. And I must say it helped all regions in the end. Now, regions are responsible for their budgets and they also evaluate and approve funding requests that belong to the region.
  • NEW APPROVAL PROCESS – because we gave regional communities the right to approve requests, we had to change the approval process. It was really difficult to find rules that would be applicable in all regions. We really didn’t want to damage what was working well for regions. So we decided to give them freedom within some boundaries and provide referenced rules. The boundary is $2000 limit per request. If it’s higher it needs to be approved by FAmSCo. The referenced rules are that expenses up to $500 can be approved on peer-review level (by a FAmSCo member, or community credit card holder), and expenses between $500 and $2000 needs to be approved by the local community (votes from 5 ambassadors at a regional meeting). Those limits and rules are not enforced by FAmSCo, regions can set whatever they want as long as they ask FAmSCo about requests over $2000, stay within their budget, and do everything transparently.

governanceOn the picture above, you can see the overall process. First step is budget planning. Regional community members have to get together and plan what they’d like to do in the next year and how much money they will need for it. Once their plan is approved by Fedora budget owner, they have a budget and know what events/activities/… they have money for, e.g. $2000 for FOSDEM. The approval process is about decisions how exactly they’d like to spend the money. How much do we need for swag at the booth at FOSDEM, is this contributor worth sponsoring airfare to the conference? All those requests should be in separate tickets and approved separately. The third step is payment itself. If it’s reimbursement it’s where community credit card holders come to the stage. They should make sure that all conditions under which the expense was approved were met and make the payment happen.

FAQ

I’m a community credit card holder, trusted by Red Hat to make payments. Why do I have to ask for an approval?

You surely are trusted by Red Hat to make payments, but payments are not expenses. Payments are done from a bank credit, expenses are done from a budget. Every payment has to match a budget expense in the end. You can find different budgets to make expenses from, but if your payment should end up as an expense in one of the regional budgets, in other words, become their expense, it’s fair to play according to their rules.

FAmSCo is taking power from us!

In fact, FAmSCo has given up a lot of power. We no longer approve most requests. FAmSCo now mainly serves as a supervisor making sure the whole system works and no one abuses it. Most of the power is now in the regional communities, much closer to community members.

Why should FAmSCo dictate us how to spend Fedora Project’s money? It’s not the emperor of Fedora Project, it only takes care of the Fedora Ambassadors program.

The whole governance and budget system I’m talking about applies to the regional support budget which has always been handled by ambassadors. But that doesn’t mean other contributors are excluded. They have an equal right to ask for funding from this budget as long as they follow the rules.

Why do we need rules anyway? We’re a community of Fedora enthusiasts. Good intentions should be enough.

Well, you’re a community of hundreds of people, maybe thousands. Such big communities can’t work without rules. That’s a fact. The governance and budget system helps us plan, prioritize with limited resources and make sure money is spent wisely. All our expenses also end up in RH accounting which has to follow many rules and legal restrictions. We tried to design the system to be as least bureaucracy as possible and we’re open to improvements if you think that there is too much red tape in some processes.

Useful links:

Reimbursements

EMEA Budget for FY14
NA Budget for FY14
LATAM Budget for FY14
APAC Budget for FY14