According to an AIIM survey titled ‘Paper Wars 2014’1 of 444 respondents in 2014, 68% believed that business-at-the-speed-of-paper would be unacceptable in a few years, and 46% stated that removal of paper has been the biggest single productivity improvement for most of their business processes.
As organizations increasingly adopt digitization of paper documents to improve efficiency, coordination, productivity, and management, manual data entry is one task that continues to grow in importance. Whether inbound documents take the shape of feedback forms, catalogs, purchase orders, invoices, or any other, it is critical to capture all relevant information from these documents into software applications, Excel sheets, ERP applications, or cloud-based applications for further processing and utilization.
However, in-house manual data entry comes with its own set of challenges for an organization, when it comes to the quality of output, speed, accuracy, and other factors. Six of these pain points are described below:
- High Error Rate: The reasons for a high error rate could vary – from inadequate training of data entry professionals to human error, illegible handwritten forms, misinterpretation of comments, and so on. Whatever the reason, the net impact could be one that is debilitating for the business, whether it has a negative effect on internal operations, customer satisfaction, or external supplier relationships. It is important for an organization to take action, firstly by identifying the error rate that is taking place. One way to do this is by picking a sample of records on a periodic basis and entering the same fields into the output of the query for verification. The average benchmark for data entry error rate is generally acknowledged to be 1%. Thus, any higher error rate could be a matter of grave concern for the business.
- Slow Turnaround Time: It is generally held that a good speed of data entry from paper documents varies between 10,000 and 15,000 keystrokes per hour. Capturing data from images is believed to be slightly faster. The number of keystrokes per hour can be higher for data entry tasks that are text-heavy or require an understanding of the text. If turnaround time consistently falls below this accepted benchmark, it is likely that the manual data entry process is not optimized within the organization.
- Unclear Fields and Formatting: As per the publication ‘Data Quality Assessment’ by Arkady Maydanchik, a typical data entry challenge that operators run into is missing values. Assigning blank values, meaningless substitutes, default values or the first entry that appears in a box can create discrepancies in the desired output. For this challenge to be overcome, the paper or scanned documentation and the software application should have easy-to-understand fields and their organization, which is not always the case.
- Quality Check: The application of the 1-10-100 rule to data entry translates into the following: it costs $1 to verify data accuracy at the point of entry; it costs $10 to clean up or correct data when it is in batch form, and it costs $100 or more for each record if no action is taken. From this principle, it is evident that quality check is an integral part of the manual data process. Businesses need to invest in additional personnel to vet the accuracy of manual data entry tasks and should implement practices such as the Double Entry System to ensure only the right output is obtained.
- Spike in Volume of Data Entry: An eCommerce business that announces a big sale may require a large volume of data entry from paper catalogs to their website in time for the marketing initiative. Similarly, a manufacturing company that opens a new office in another location may have a sudden influx of purchase orders from new customers. Managing an unexpected spike in manual data entry work will put tremendous pressure on in-house manual data entry professionals, and may cause an increase in errors as well.
- Loss of Focus from Other Core Tasks: If manual data entry is not one of the core tasks of the business, it can divert employees from completing other important activities. This itself can have a detrimental effect on the organization in the long run, as a targeted effort to achieve strategic objectives might get diluted.
While technology performs its function of making data capture easier, manual data entry will always have an important role to play, particularly for unstructured content and validation. Several successful organizations all over the world have found immense value in outsourcing manual data entry tasks to overcome the challenges they have faced by executing the process in-house. A BPO company that offers high-quality data entry, scalability of operations, and optimal turnaround time would be the ideal partner for manual data entry outsourcing.