Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Future of Synagogue Software An Interview With Jim Gelles

There has been a lot of talk lately in the Synagogue Software industry about new platforms, and new directions. With Rakefet leaving the market, Synagogues all over the world will be looking for something new. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to sit down with one of the leaders of the Synagogue software community, Jim Gelles, owner of Membership Management Services and publisher of MM2000. He was kind enough to spend some time with me and answer a few of my questions.

Mike: Jim, thanks for this opportunity to sit down with me. So give me a little background, how long have you been in business?

Jim: I started working with computers in the late 70's, mostly selling computer systems. It wasn't until 1987 when I got into software. In '87 I started Membership Management Services with the intention of selling specifically to synagogues.

Mike: Why synagogues, why not go into something a little bigger?

Jim: I thought that the synagogue market was one that hadn't really been explored. It was a niche market, and so we went for it, and I've continued since then. We felt it was important that we specialized; only working with Synagogues.
Mike: How do your account for staying in business for over 25 years?

Jim: The one thing that Membership Management Services has been successful at is continuing to keep up with the development of software. In the late 90's, when Windows really took off, we moved from a DOS to Windows Package. Because I do a lot of the programming, and own the company, I had the knowledge and was willing to put the time in to move from one platform to another. That's what made us successful. We are one of the few companies that can say they've been successful moving from one platform to more effective ones.

Mike: Is this what makes MM2000 and Membership Management Services stand out above the rest?

Jim: MM2000 stands out because after almost 25 years of development it's what synagogues need. MM2000 has been developed over the years by letting the synagogues tell us what they want, and us modifying the program to match their needs. This has made our software into a more diverse and complete package.

Mike: So what is the next step?

Jim: Well there is a lot of talk right now about going to the cloud, this is indeed the future. We're determined to take another leap forward just like we did with DOS (to Windows), by rewriting our entire package in the language of the internet, JAVA. The project is currently being worked on and by the end of the year we will have something to show everyone at the Conventions.

Mike:  So what is "cloud computing"?

Jim: The cloud is a methodology that allows access to data from many locations. It makes it very easy when you're sitting at home, your office, or even an airport to be able to access your data.

Mike: That is most interesting!

Jim: Well, it also raises a lot of concerns in terms of security; it's not something to just be rushed into. With saying all of that, there are many technologies out there right now to move to the cloud. In fact, a few of our customers have already done this. They are successfully running MM2000 with their data locations separate from their main office.

Mike: Can't synagogue members then just change their own data willingly without the synagogue ever knowing about it?
Jim: We feel that it is very important for the back office to be separated from the front office; we don't want the members to be able to manipulate the Synagogue's data. That's why MM2000 is designed with an optional App (module) called MMOnTheWeb. With MMOnTheWeb members can update their records, make donations, and even register for school or events. But because it's a separate application from MM2000 the synagogues never have to worry about members actually accessing the back office. Everything flows back and forth between the two programs smoothly all while providing a huge layer of security.
Mike: So why haven't you switched over fully to a cloud based program?

Jim: I think in the next couple of years the internet will be a lot more secure, but at this point every one needs to be very concerned with security. With huge companies like Sony, Google, and even the CIA are being hacked, right now the security just isn't there. That doesn't mean that the cloud isn't on our mind, and that the cloud isn't the future. That's why we are moving to JAVA, the language of the internet.

Mike:  So JAVA is the next step?

Jim: Yes. We are really excited about this. Going to JAVA will accomplish a lot of things. First, like I said, JAVA is the language of the internet. This way we can run the next version of MM2000 as a browser based program, giving you the ability to access the program from anywhere. But even before that, by moving to JAVA we will be able to run on just about any platform; Mac, Windows, even on the Ipad/Iphone and Android. So you truly will be able to run on anything.
Mike: That will make the Java version really convenient to access.

Jim: That's not all. You will also be able to theme the next version of MM2000, just like you would any web page. Think of it this way, you go on Constant Contact and select a certain look for your email. Our JAVA product will have the same capabilities. You will be able to pick your colors, font, and general look. I'm really excited to see what synagogues will do with this!
Mike: So why go with JAVA and not some other platform?

Jim: JAVA seemed like the most reasonable. We looked at going other directions like .Net, but we didn't want to be tied down by the limitations of just Microsoft. I'm looking at the long distance future, not just the short term future, and in 10 years how will Microsoft fair against everything else? I mean who knows, Android could become the dominant operating system. If we went with .Net we would have been forced to use only a Microsoft Database. As good as they are, they still have limits to what they can do. I see PC's and Ipads (tablets) as the future, and by going to JAVA we are already ready for this.
Mike: Is there anything you would like to close with? Anything you want to tell anyone out there?

Jim: Well to close, I like to think that our 25 years of experience speaks for itself. We successfully moved from one platform, DOS to the next, Windows, and now we are taking the next giant leap into the true internet age with JAVA.
We've always been about our customers, the synagogues, and what they want, and what their needs are today. MM2000 is an easy to use, user friendly software package. Because of that we have been able to offer the lowest support prices in the industry, usually 30% less than our competers. So even though we have more features than other software, our cost of ownership is much less than the rest of the industry. For example we charge $1100 per year for unlimited multiuser support.

For those who are looking for new synagogue software or just want to find out why MM2000 is the best solution for Synagogue software, check their web page at . You can also reach MM2000 & Jim Gelles, by phone at 818/988-0008 or e-mail at 
( The interviewer, Mike Gelles, is the Director of Markting for Membership Management Services, and also the son of owner, Jim Gelles.)

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