Data entry entails picking up data from the sources provided and arranging them into a database. Initially the task was the prerogative of man alone, but today, technological advancements in this field have ensured simplified and automatic conversion of large volumes of data into databases, documents, and spreadsheets. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) technologies are fast replacing human involvement in mundane data entry operations at many organizations. Most companies see technology-based automation as a good alternative to manual data entry teams. But to what extent is technology a better alternative to manual data entry services? Let us see.
Technological advancement has increased the efficiency of data entry service providers. Data entry clerks no longer work manually on hand-written documents: they use computers, automation, and a number of software applications for electronic data processing and compilation. Automation is widely used for routine data entry and multiplication of data. A number of applications are used in place of hand-written documents to compile and store data. Similarly, software helps process data and converts it from one medium to another for easy readability and storage.
Take the example of health insurance documentation. Hand-written documents are scanned to create digital images. These digital images are processed in computerized scanners using OCR or ORM software. The software can read the required data and compile it in the right format. If the software has low confidence in reading a data field, it flags that single field for review. Once the process is completed, a data entry clerk reviews the sheets for accuracy and manually fills in the missing areas.
The rising use of technology for data entry stems from several factors. Some of the reasons for the popularity of data entry technologies with a majority of service providers are:
Technology has undoubtedly offered opportunities to cut costs and process data entry tasks faster and quicker than manual data entry, but it has not replaced human involvement completely. As far as conversion of poor quality documents is concerned, manual data entry is the best solution since this requires a high level of accuracy, which is not guaranteed by OCR applications. Though the cost of OCR/ ORM service may be less than manual data entry services to develop electronic replicas of any document, the conversion lifecycle cost of the OCR system would be much higher.
OCR software does not ensure 100% accuracy of data conversion, which depends heavily on the quality of the original printed text. The task of correcting OCR inaccuracies is labor-intensive and negates any labor cost savings by the automated process. OCR conversion for text documents is a viable option, though it is not a better alternative for spreadsheets, since there is a risk of high error rates during conversion. Thus the need arises for thorough double-checking by data entry clerks to ensure complete accuracy, especially for financial or sensitive information.
While data entry software undergoes continuous development, many processes still require a data entry clerk, as the software does not efficiently recognize handwriting and fonts that are similar to handwriting. In such cases, manual typing is a better alternative to using data entry technology. OCR software cannot create digital documents by scanning audio files, which is surely possible in the case of manual data entry service. For services like online data extraction or mailing list conversion, manual data entry is widely used. Thus machines can aid humans in data entry, but cannot replace them completely.