Companies today run on data. This data comes in a variety of forms and is often unstructured or contained in analog formats. Converting this data into a usable format is where data entry comes in. The data entry process should be a standardized workflow that delivers efficiency and accuracy while staying on budget.
Learn more about data entry workflows and how to find the ideal approach for your company.
What is a data entry workflow?
A data entry workflow is the back-office process involved in transcribing information into an electronic medium so it can undergo analysis, validation, reporting, or other important functions. In other words, it’s the step-by-step procedure you follow to get the data off the page and into your software systems or digital repository.
Why is your data entry workflow important?
Data entry is easy to take for granted. It’s not a glamorous aspect of doing business, but it’s critical to your business’s success since it serves as the backbone of other critical processes. For example, you may have to transcribe data to:
- Maintain customer data.
- Process and route orders.
- Facilitate medical billing and pre-authorization.
- Conduct three-way matching in accounts payable (AP).
- Manage inventory.
- Maintain company records.
Wherever you depend on data, you need that data in a digestible format. In some cases, your data may start out that way, but that is often not the case.
For example, when it comes to three-way matching in AP, you’re often dealing with PDFs of order receipts, purchase orders, and invoices from various companies, all in different formats. Getting the relevant totals and information from those documents often means someone manually locating those data points on each document and entering it into your accounting software.
According to a Goldman Sachs report, businesses in North America spend an estimated $187 billion every year on AP processing, which is still a largely manual process for most businesses.
The workflow businesses follow to extract and enter data may be something that happens behind-the-scenes, but it’s a critical aspect of your business process and can either contribute to your overall efficiency and effectiveness or can be a source of inefficiency and other problems.
What are common challenges in data entry workflows?
Data entry workflows can be a source of problems for your business. This everyday function is a commonplace for:
- Inefficiency: Manual data entry is a notoriously slow and labor-intensive process for many businesses that process a large volume of data. This can cause bottlenecks in your business operations, which has a ripple effect. For example, it can mean delayed payments while you’re waiting on a sluggish medical billing process.
- Errors: Data entry can also be an error-prone process when it’s done manually. Referencing the wrong information or making a typo while transcribing data can have serious consequences for the processes using that data, which depend on accuracy.
- Security concerns: Whenever you’re working with sensitive data, such as protected health information or financial data, you need to ensure privacy and security at every step of the process. Especially when data entry is performed by a third party, this can expose your data to vulnerabilities.
What are the main types of data entry workflows, and who are they best for?
Businesses manage data entry in different ways. There are three basic approaches you can take, and each offers its own advantages and possible disadvantages. Consider which of these approaches you’re currently taking and which makes the most sense for your business.
1. In-House Manual
This approach means you’re using your own staff to manually enter data. In a typical process, you may:
- Scan paper documents and save these scans as PDFs.
- Leaf through document files to find relevant information.
- Type that information into various software applications.
Some companies hire dedicated staff for data entry, which can cost upward of $50,000 annually per data entry keyer (not counting expenses such as training and benefits), while others count on various team members to work data entry into their routine.
This approach is best for small teams with a low volume of data and documents to process.
2. Outsourced Manual
Another approach to manual data entry is contracting with an outside vendor. Often located overseas, these companies will scan and review your documents and manually prepare data so it’s ready for your business systems. This process can be slow, and it may not deliver the most accurate data.
The upside to this approach is affordability. Outsourcing can cost less than managing data entry workflows in-house, making it a fit for large companies where cost is the primary factor and time and accuracy aren’t huge concerns.
A third, and fundamentally different, approach to data entry workflows is to automate as much as possible. With software solutions such as those offered by Notable Systems, companies can automatically capture data from paper documents and unstructured digital files, identify the relevant data points, and feed this data directly into business systems.
These solutions depend on technology such as optical character recognition and artificial intelligence, completely replacing the work humans would otherwise need to perform—and doing it at a higher level of accuracy.
Automated data collection and entry is the best fit for many companies, including those that:
- Have a high volume of data held within documents.
- Need data extraction and entry to be fast.
- Can’t afford inaccuracies in their data.
- Can’t do business overseas due to compliance or security issues.
Is it time to revamp your data entry workflow?
Consider how your company depends on data and what your current data entry workflow looks like. Are there inefficiencies, errors, or security concerns that have an exponential impact on other business processes? If you’re curious about how to automate a data entry job and whether data entry automation would be a good fit for your business, the Notable Systems team is here to answer your questions and help you get started. Schedule a consultation today!