Manual data entry and processing — why you need to minimize it

David Wippel

David Wippel

Is your team still entering data points like customers' names and email addresses manually into your CRM system? Or perhaps they need to copy and paste data from one Excel spreadsheet to another regularly? Whatever data they are entering manually, there's probably a way to eliminate that — or at the very least minimize it. But first, let's talk about why you need to minimize it in the first place.

What is manual data entry?

Manual data entry can come in many shapes and sizes. Typically, it's entering customer data from a piece of paper into a tool, transferring data between spreadsheets, or copy and pasting it between systems. But, basically, it's when an employee has to sit down and enter names and numbers into a system in a very repetitive manner.

Why is manual data entry a problem?

There are a couple of reasons why manual data entry is an issue for businesses, but these are the main ones:

  • Inefficiency: manually entering data can take up a lot of time, especially as your business grows. So what might have taken an hour with a handful of customers initially can take a full day, with 100 customers.
  • Room for error: humans are not perfect; we're bound to make mistakes — especially with a repetitive task like manual data entry. There's a lot of room here for error, which can impact a lot of things in your business, such as ending up with the wrong numbers or a customer not getting their package delivered.
  • Employee frustration: who likes mundane, repetitive tasks? They get boring, don't challenge our workers and can easily be done by technology nowadays. Eliminating or minimizing manual data entry is a great way to keep your customers and your employees happy and motivated.

Manual data entry examples

Manual data entry doesn't just happen in a business — it's the outcome of a couple of behaviors that lead to this inefficiency. But we mainly do this because ‘it's always been done that way' before the digital age. But the thing is, tech is developing so fast right now, there's no need to do these things manually; you eliminate the following from your process:

  • Collecting physical forms and signatures from customers, employees, and more
  • Using an array of software systems and tools that don't connect
  • Setting up an operations and/or project management system that is too complex and doesn't integrate

How to get rid of manual data entry / or at the very least - eliminate it

At TRIGO, we've helped many of our clients get rid of manual data entry processes and how to go about it is pretty much always the same.

1. Do an overall audit

Before you change things, it's time to take a step back and look at the big picture. Companies often don't even have an overview of their processes and what tools/software systems are involved. So first.

Get an IT team involved

If you want to optimize and automate data entry, sooner or later, you will have to get the IT team involved. Because the software will be taking on the heavy lifting, we highly recommend getting an IT team (like us) involved as early on as possible — because we know what's technically feasible, scalable, and just how much it's going to put you out of pocket.

Make a list of processes that involve manual data entry

To get an overview, it's a good idea to list manual processes in your company and what departments are involved. You should also label the function and outcome of each process.

Figure out what systems/data points overlap

Next, it's essential to figure out which processes overlap and have dependencies — this can make things even more transparent as to what data points could be used in other business areas.

2. Connect these systems and identify one source of truth

Before you go throwing the whole system overboard, it's always a good idea to start connecting your software systems and making them talk to each other. You can often achieve this by using software integrations or API technology. If you have more than one data set for the same data points (such as customer names or addresses), it's essential to identify a source of truth — which data set overrules the other and is most likely to be accurate.

3. Eliminate paper contracts

Using physical contracts is still a very traditional way of operating — switch to software such as DocuSign to eliminate that paper trail and have all of them in one place.

4. Eliminate paper forms

Have a customer or patient arriving at your physical office/store space? Avoid having them fill out a paper form by providing a QR code or setting up an iPad — avoid employees having to transfer the handwriting and avoid mistakes.

5. Opt for open-source software

Dealing with different software systems and data points in a company can get messy — but only if you can't connect and change the system in a flexible way. One way to ensure you don't get stuck with your software is to opt for an open-source system to grow and develop continuously.

Manual vs. automatic data entry

So if this is what manual data entry is, what does automation look like? Good question. Automating data entry can look like this:

Implementing OCR technology

OCR stands for optical character recognition. This technology allows for text documents and pdf files to be read automatically. So instead of your employees typing what a user added to a form — they can just upload it to the OCR technology and it will pull the data. Leaving less room for human error and cutting the process down to seconds instead of 15 mins.

Letting the user add/change the data

You can also reduce the amount of manual data entry carried out by your employees by simply letting the customer or client add/change the data. So although the data is added manually, there's less room for mistakes because the customer or client can check it themselves. This is usually done by adding a login area where they can change their settings.

Eliminate manual data entry, win in the long run

Tackling this topic of eliminating manual data entry is often a burden because it requires change, sometimes an investment upfront, and will take up some of your team's resources. It's a scary thing; we get it. But it's something that pays off in the long run and will give you a great ROI.

Minimizing or eliminating manual data entry will lower your fixed costs, help you make smarter business intelligence decisions, and increase employee satisfaction by letting them focus on their primary work.

Want to know more about how to automate data entry or connect your software systems? Drop our CEO David an email at david@trigodev.com.

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