Do Companies Still Use Manual Data Entry?

The answer is a resounding YES. A better question is “Why do companies still use manual data entry?” It’s slow, error-prone, and expensive. Typing information into spreadsheets, ERP systems, and other business software is tedious labor that drains resources and obliterates employee engagement. Manually entering data is the virtual equivalent of repeatedly doing one simple task on an assembly line – one task so simple that a machine could do it. And here’s the thing: you can get machines to handle end-to-end document processing right now.

If you’re a US-based company that needs to process a massive pile of documents immediately, you might be able to call in the National Guard.

Hold up, what? Data entry has become a domestic emergency in the US? The way 2020 has been going, that doesn’t seem too crazy; in fact, it’s a welcome kind of crazy. 

Anyway, lacking a digital network that allows for fast and simple data sharing, many of America’s smaller laboratories and doctors’ offices are sending coronavirus testing and case reports to public health authorities via fax. The resulting flood of paper is overwhelming state health departments across America. Washington State brought in 25 soldiers from the National Guard to manually enter patient data from faxes into its system. 

Take a moment to imagine that. You’re a Guard Soldier and you get the call to serve your nation. “It would be an honor,” you say, “What’s the assignment?”

A state COVID-19 response team needs your help. You’ll get specifics when you arrive at the state’s health department. Your spirit soars. Your heart swells with pride. You’ll be saving countless lives! Your efforts will play a key role in managing this relentless pandemic! You’re doing your part to get America back to The Before Times, when life was whatever qualifies as normal these days.

You report to a representative of the state health authority, who hands you a tower of faxes and gives you your assignment: type specific data points contained in each blurry printout into a spreadsheet. Speed is as vital as accuracy – after all, this data could save lives.

That pride you felt when you got the call rushes out of you like air out of a popped balloon. This is not what you signed up for. However, an order is an order. 

So you take your stack of papers, sit yourself at a workstation, and you start entering data. Time stops ticking and starts crawling. In those printouts, words lose all meaning, numbers lose all value. You’re saving lives, though, so it’s worth it, isn’t it?

While the particulars of this dramatization probably don’t apply to your company, the general concept does. You can replace “National Guard Soldier” with any employee in any role, the faxes with any business document in any format, and health department systems with any spreadsheet or business system. In essence, we’re seeing one person’s talents and potential being wasted on the tedious task of manual data entry. But, hey, that data’s not going to enter itself into that spreadsheet, right?

Actually, wrong. You can now use artificial intelligence to capture data from any document and enter that data into spreadsheets, ERP systems, or other business software. When you see it in action, the data really does seem to enter it into your system.

With the technology so easily accessible, we ask again, “Why do companies still use manual data entry?”

The high price of short-term savings

Some organizations see manual data entry as a cheap way of processing documents. They don’t need to bother with the costs of software implementation, deployment, and maintenance. There’s no need to train employees to use new programs, since data entry is something that anyone with a brain, an eye, and a finger can do. You don’t even have to hire new staff or outsource the task – just add it to a few people’s to-do-lists. It’s so easy, you can do it yourself!

This is where we enter the territory of diminishing returns. The more manual data entry your company is doing, the more it’s costing you over time. According to a 2018 Goldman Sachs report, the direct and indirect costs of manual, paper-based invoice processing amount to an eye-watering $2.7 trillion for global businesses.

More Errors Costs More Money

Whether you’ve heard of Joel E. Ross’ 1-10-100 rule, you’ve probably heard Benjamin Franklin’s axiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. You’re going to spend less on preventing errors than fixing them or dealing with any failures they may cause. The 1-10-100 rule states:

  • Error prevention will cost your company $1
  • Error correction will cost your company $10
  • An unchecked error that causes a process or system failure will cost your company $100
Companies that still use manual data entry are more likely to incur correction and failure costs.

When you’ve got unengaged people handling data entry, there’s a higher potential for errors, corrections, and failures, which translates to higher costs. However, the upfront expense of data capture software that requires little to no human intervention helps eliminate correction and failure costs. In fact, this software can deliver a substantial return on your investment quickly, since it enables employees to create real value for your company.

Everybody’s Got Better Things to Do than Data Entry

The Goldman Sachs report quotes findings by Hyland Software, which state that finance and accounting employees spend 30% of their time at work collecting data and responding to inquiries concerning accounts payable (AP) processes. They also spend a lot of time getting invoices approved and resolving problems that stem from data entry errors.

The time these employees spend on manual processes could be better spent on research, analysis, strategizing, growth planning, supporting other teams, and taking care of other activities that are good for your bottom line. This becomes a non-issue when you integrate an AI-powered data extraction solution into your AP operations.

No Time To Train Is No Excuse

Earlier we mentioned that companies who still rely on manual data entry don’t have to deal with the time and expense of onboarding employees to a data capture system. This is a non-issue as you can deploy an automated data extraction solution with an intuitive UI that anyone can learn to use with little to no training.

Soldier on With Rossum

Rossum’s cloud-based data capture application helps you eliminate the excess costs that manual data entry creates. You’ll also free up resources to generate real value for your company rather than waste their time and talent entering document data into spreadsheets and business systems. Regardless of their role and the type of documents they need to process, Rossum keeps their involvement in data extraction to a minimum, without any military intervention.
Sign up for a free trial account to process up to 300 documents per month, with no obligation to buy. Your full-featured trial includes the Rossum Usage Reporting dashboard, which can help you maximize the efficiency of your document processing operations.

Leave comment