Data Parsing: What Is It and Should You Buy or Build?

Learn more about data parsing and how it can help you transform raw data into structured formats and actionable items.

 min. read
May 28, 2024
Data Parsing: What Is It and Should You Buy or Build?

Data parsing, an indispensable facet of modern computing, serves as the backbone of many digital interactions. It's about translating raw, unprocessed data into a more readable format, unlocking actionable insights and critical information. From web development to big data analytics, data parsing enables software applications to understand and leverage data effectively.

It forms the crucial bridge between complex data structures and their practical applications, fueling the smooth operation of our increasingly digital world. As the volume of data we generate continues to soar, mastering the art of data parsing becomes ever more important. In this article, we'll delve into the intricacies of data parsing, the benefits of adopting it, its applications, and the criteria you can use to assess whether you should buy or build a data parser.

At its core, data parsing represents the process of converting raw, unstructured information into a structured format, making it more comprehensible for various software applications. To put it simply, data parsing gives meaning to information that otherwise would be hard to interpret or act on. This transformation, often powered by advanced technologies like Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Machine Learning (ML), and Large Language Models like GPT-4, enables us to tap into a wealth of data that would otherwise remain inaccessible.

This is quite important because 95% of businesses report that managing unstructured data presents a significant challenge. Unstructured data can range from textual content in emails or social media posts to more complex data like images or videos. With data parsing, this wealth of information can be transformed into structured data, such as database tables, making it easier to search, analyze, and use.

Take the example of web scraping, where data parsing plays a pivotal role. Websites are built using HTML, which is human-readable but inefficient for a computer to analyze or process. We can extract specific pieces of information from an HTML document and convert it into a structured format like JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) or plain text through data parsing. This conversion allows the software to read, interpret, and use the data for various applications, whether it's for market research, competitive analysis, or data-driven decision-making.

In today's data-driven landscape, the volume of information we generate and encounter is growing exponentially. Every digital interaction, every device, and every application contributes to this vast ocean of data. While data forms the bedrock of our digital ecosystem, it's often unstructured and in a raw format that's challenging to interpret. This is where data parsing comes into play.

The need for data parsing, a process that transforms unstructured data into a structured format, is becoming increasingly clear and crucial. Implementing this methodology allows us to unlock the full potential of data, promoting comprehensive understanding and utilization while significantly enhancing the operational and financial aspects of businesses.

Improve Efficiency

A key driver behind the adoption of data parsing is the substantial boost it provides to operational efficiency. In the past, businesses primarily relied on manual data entry to turn unstructured information into a usable, structured format. This conventional process, while effective to a degree, can be time-consuming and susceptible to human error, which can lead to inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the data.

When you automate the data entry process, data parsing significantly reduces the time taken to transform information. The result? Quicker, more accurate data processing that dramatically improves the efficiency of data-dependent tasks.

Moreover, in today's digital age, countless automation processes hinge on structured data for their inputs. If the initial data is unstructured, these processes can't function effectively. Data parsing solves this bottleneck by providing structured, usable data right from the get-go. The speed and accuracy of automation processes increase, leading to heightened productivity and faster realization of business goals.

Reduce Cost

The benefits of data parsing extend beyond operational efficiency to financial prudence. With automated data parsing stepping in for manual data entry, businesses can avoid the expense of hiring additional personnel for this traditionally labor-intensive task. Given that the average cost of hiring an employee is around $4,000, businesses can redirect these substantial savings to other key areas.

Additionally, digitization of data through parsing eliminates the need for physical document storage. This shift not only saves on space and associated costs but also aligns with modern sustainable practices. A move towards a paperless office environment reduces expenditure and minimizes a company's carbon footprint, reinforcing corporate social responsibility.

Let's explore how data parsing comes into play in different situations. Its varied uses span across sectors, enhancing efficiency and offering solutions to complex problems. The following examples illustrate this in a practical context.

Data parsing is particularly useful in the domain of human resources. For instance, the screening of candidates typically involves dealing with a massive influx of resumes or CVs, each brimming with crucial information about potential candidates. The traditional method of manually extracting this information can be time-consuming and prone to errors.

However, data parsing allows for automated extraction of data from these documents and subsequent feeding of the information directly into the HR system. This greatly accelerates the screening process, ensures more precise assessments of candidate profiles, and saves HR professionals valuable time.

Customer onboarding is another area where data parsing proves essential. Conventionally, new customers need to manually input data from their identity documents, such as passports or ID cards, into application forms - a tedious and error-prone process.

Data parsing can streamline this, as customers just need to upload images of their identity documents. The parsing tool then extracts the necessary data and automatically populates the application forms, enhancing the onboarding process's speed and accuracy and elevating the customer experience.

Data parsing offers significant advantages in the retail sector, especially in shopping malls with loyalty programs. These businesses often encourage customers to upload images of their receipts and manually enter the receipt details to accrue loyalty points. This manual processing can be laborious and susceptible to inaccuracies. Implementing data parsing can automate this procedure. The data parser extracts the necessary information from the uploaded receipt images, providing a more efficient, accurate, and user-friendly way to earn loyalty points.

One of the first factors to consider is cost. Building a data parser from scratch can be expensive, especially when considering the salaries of the developers who will construct and maintain the parser. The average software developer's salary can range from $80,000 to $120,000 per year, and a robust data parsing solution might require a team of developers working for several months or even years.

On the other hand, buying an existing data parsing solution might entail an initial investment but could end up being less costly in the long run. Most commercial solutions offer tiered pricing models based on the volume of documents to process, allowing businesses to scale the cost according to their needs.

Another critical consideration is the time to market. Developing a data parser in-house can be a lengthy process, involving stages from planning and development to testing and implementation. This could take anywhere from several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of the tool and the resources available.

In contrast, purchasing a pre-built solution offers immediate availability. Businesses can integrate the solution into their processes right away, significantly reducing the time to market. This allows them to start reaping the benefits of data parsing much sooner.

Control over the solution is another aspect that can sway the build vs. buy decision. Building an in-house solution gives businesses full control over the features, adaptability, and scalability of the data parser. They can tailor the tool to their specific needs and preferences and make adjustments as necessary.

However, this level of control comes with the responsibility of maintaining and updating the tool to keep up with changing needs and technologies. On the contrary, a purchased solution usually comes with ongoing support and regular updates from the vendor, reducing the burden of maintenance on the business.

The long-term maintenance of the data parser should also factor into the decision. An in-house solution requires ongoing upkeep by a dedicated team of developers, adding to the overall cost. Moreover, if the team faces turnover, there could be knowledge gaps that hinder the solution's maintenance.

Purchasing a solution alleviates much of this burden, as maintenance and updates are typically included in the cost. Vendors also provide technical support, assisting with any issues that may arise.

Deciding whether to build or buy a data parsing solution depends on each business's unique situation and needs. By carefully considering factors such as cost, time to market, control, and long-term maintenance, businesses can make an informed decision that best suits their requirements and strategic objectives.

Building a Data Parser:

Pros:

  • Customization: Building a data parser allows you to tailor it to your specific requirements and needs.
  • Control: You have full control over the development process and can make changes as needed.
  • Flexibility: You can adapt the parser to handle different types of data and adjust it as your needs evolve.

Cons:

  • Time and Resources: Building a data parser from scratch requires time, expertise, and resources.
  • Maintenance: You will be responsible for maintaining and updating the parser as new requirements arise or technologies change.
  • Learning Curve: Developing a data parser may require a learning curve, especially if you are not familiar with parsing techniques and technologies.

Buying a Data Parser:

Pros:

  • Time and Cost Savings: Buying a data parser can save time and initial development costs compared to building one from scratch.
  • Tested and Reliable: Purchasing a data parser means you are getting a solution that has been tested and proven to work.
  • Support: Many vendors provide support and updates for their data parsing solutions.

Cons:

  • Limited Customization: Buying a data parser may limit your ability to customize it to your exact requirements.
  • Dependency: You rely on the vendor for updates, bug fixes, and ongoing support.
  • Compatibility: The purchased data parser may not integrate seamlessly with your existing systems or technologies.

Ready to harness the power of intelligent document processing in your business? Consider FormX, a cutting-edge solution that transforms unstructured data into actionable insights. FormX leverages advanced technologies like Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Machine Learning (ML), and Large Language Models (LLM) to extract data from a wide array of documents, including receipts, invoices, and bank statements. Unlike traditional solutions, setting up a new extractor with FormX only requires as little as one sample and can be achieved within minutes. Don't let the potential of your data go untapped.

Contact us to empower your business operations with FormX and experience the efficiency and precision of automated data parsing today!