Though computers and software have, on the whole, been a boon to the business world, they come with certain drawbacks. One of the most grueling of those is data entry.
Data entry refers to the process of transferring numbers and figures from printed pages or other sources into your computer system. This can be a tedious, time-consuming task for your employees, and it is one that is particularly error-prone. Multiple hours of work are lost every day to data entry, when they could be better spent by your employees on the issues more central to your business.
This is why data entry software is among the most useful types of systems for your company to purchase and implement. A great deal of different types of software suites, for important office necessities such as customer relationship management (CRM) and project management, will have data entry features and functions. But if your company is too small to utilize those systems, if you have important data outside the purview of those areas or if your business relies on data entry as one of its chief concerns, you might require independent or specialized data entry software.
This Buyer's Guide will help you determine if you require data entry software, what features you might find most useful in that software and what you should ask of vendors when you are looking to purchase.
Here's what we'll cover in order to help you make this important decision:
Almost everyone is familiar with the most commonly used system that could technically be classified as "data entry software"—Microsoft Excel. In addition to allowing you to create charts, calculate data and build interactive dashboards, Excel's user-friendly spreadsheets serve as a data entry solution for a wide variety of businesses.
However, using spreadsheets for your data entry is far from ideal. The amount of time it takes to enter each bit of information by hand can make things extremely tedious and can lead to a large number of errors. In addition, each spreadsheet is stored on one person's computer, and can't be accessed by multiple employees across the company. In many ways, using spreadsheets to enter data is little better than keeping that information in a hard-bound notebook.
More advanced data entry software deals with the problems you'll encounter with simple spreadsheets. Tools within the software can automate some of the most tedious, error-prone tasks. However, different data entry systems will speak to different methods of handling information and thus will automate those tasks in different ways. You'll want to find a system that is right for your business processes, particularly in regards to your business type.
A large amount of data entry software systems specifically address the needs of particular industries. There are different types of data entry software tools for fields such as medicine, accounting and insurance, for example, each of which offers specialized features relevant to that specific type of business and its needs.
Regardless of the industry, though, all data entry software shares a few key features in common, which we'll discuss in the following section.
|Electronic forms||Almost all dedicated data entry software will allow you to create custom forms that will ask for the key data you need to have entered into the system. Autofill features can make filling out these forms easier and less repetitive, while they can also be set to check for obvious or common errors. The software will then take the data entered into these forms and convert it into more complicated, classified formats for better storage and analysis.|
|Data classification||Once data is entered into your system, it needs to be organized in a way that makes it effective and efficient to use. Data classification tools will do this for you, taking the data that you enter and converting it into a format that will be more beneficial for your future use and analysis.|
|Data extraction||Sometimes you aren't just manually entering data, but rather need to take unstructured or poorly structured data sources and turn them into something usable. Data extraction tools can help you with this, by taking that unstructured data and further processing and classifying it so that you can use it in your business.|
|Data cleaning||Data cleaning takes an existing set of data (a table, record set, database etc.) and scans through it to search for certain specified errors, inconsistencies and blank spots.|
|Data validation||Data validation is a process performed at the time of data entry, ensuring that the data will not need to be cleaned at a later date by validating it as it is initially entered. In practice, this means tools in the system will make sure that you are avoiding common data entry errors so that your data is fully correct and useful for you.|
|Scanning||Some businesses need to store visual information as much as they do text-based information. For those companies, specific data entry systems will allow you to scan in images to be stored with the rest of your data. In addition, some advanced software can scan in spreadsheets and other physical data sets and convert/classify them into usable data in your system.|
The mobile data collection page in Repsly
It's hard to think of a business that doesn't require some amount of data entry as a part of its day-to-day operations. As such, this means that there as many types of data entry software buyers as there are types of businesses.
However, regardless of your specific business field, you will likely have different needs based on the size of your business, thus falling into one of the following categories:
Other factors to take into consideration when picking the best data entry software for your business may include:
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