Episcopal clergy should have received an e-mail in April of 2012 noting that the OTM Portfolio database was shutting down for a couple of days to upgrade to version 1.5.  This was at least the second upgrade to the new OTM system, as the OTM staff tries to address perceived flaws in the software.

The April 2012 e-mail highlighted two changes, one to the way languages are listed and one limiting how primary gifts and skills are entered into the Work History section.   Both changes are efforts to make the search function of the software that matches clergy to community portfolios work better.

Foreign language capacity is now identified by checking specifically defined boxes.  In earlier iterations, a simple typo could throw off the computer search.  For example, if someone entered Spanesh, instead of Spanish, the computer could not make the match.  Pre-defined check off boxes solves that problem.

The old CDO system provided clergy and search committees a common list of pre-defined skills to use on their profiles which could be matched by the computer software.  The new OTM system has moved away from pre-defined skills.  Clergy and search committees are invited to use their own words.   Early reports indicate the skill matching component of the OTM portfolio is not yet working well. There are just too many ways to define the same skill and the computer program is not sophisticated enough to read the slight variations.  Not only do typos throw it off, but the computer can read “pastoring” and “pastoral” as distinct skills.

I suspect more changes will be necessary beyond OTM 1.5 before the matching program works reliably.  Until then, the best matching program can be found not on the computer, but in the networks of Diocesan Transition Officers (DTM), who regularly communicate with each other trying to find appropriate candidates for open positions.  Human to human contact still outperforms the computer.

Another upgrade, OTM 2.0, is in the works.  That upgrade may expand on the part of the OTM system that has been well received, the”Narrative” section.   A DTM recently reported to me that search committees like having answers to set questions ready to review early in the search.  The “Narrative” saves the time spent on sending questionnaires to clergy and awaiting their response.  From the clergy perspective, having a standard set of questions saves the time spent answering slightly different questions for every search.  OTM 2.0 may add a few new questions, to cover areas like stewardship, that are not covered in the current “ Narrative” section.

Clergy should take the time to carefully respond to all the questions in the “Narrative” section.  Several DTM’s have emphasized the importance of filling out the section completely, as search committees like to compare candidates’ responses on all the questions.  The OTM guidelines suggest clergy answer at least five questions.  I recommend you answer them all.

As the OTM continues to evolve, I hope to see a much more detailed “Tips and Guidelines” section.  Computer systems need educated users to function well. (Hence this blog.) The first law of computing is GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.  The OTM Portfolio is fairly complex.  Seemingly innocuous typos can throw it off.  The more precise guidance we are given in using it, the better the OTM may operate.