What Is Semi-Structured Data?
Semi-structured data is a form of data that doesn’t conform to the traditional tabular structure of data models, but it has structured properties that make them more commonly used.
Automating data entry can bring significant benefits to businesses troubled by document-centric processes. Learn how to automate data entry the easy way with this complete guide.
In today's digital world, data has become the new oil. It's used to make decisions big and small, from what products to stock on store shelves to which candidate to hire for a job. However, data is only valuable if it's accurate. It's the reason data entry has become such big business, with the industry expected to grow by an impressive $504.12 million between 2021 and 2025.
Traditionally, data entry has been a manual process. Employees are given the task of transcribing data from one format to another, whether it's from a physical document to an electronic spreadsheet or from an email to a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Not only is this process time-consuming, but it's also prone to errors. A single typo can result in data that's unusable, which can have costly consequences.
Fortunately, there's a better way. Data entry automation is a process that uses software to streamline the data entry process, making it faster and more accurate. In this blog, we'll tell you all you need to know about data entry automation, including how it works and the benefits it offers businesses of all sizes.
Let's delve right in.
Data entry refers to the process by which data is entered into a computer system or database. In this process, we leverage technologies to eliminate or reduce human input in data entry. With data entry automation solutions, it's easy to extract data from different files, such as PDFs, images, and documents. This data can then be converted into a structured format for further downstream processing.
Data entry automation can be used for a variety of tasks, such as data entry for accounting and invoicing or data entry for customer relationship management (CRM). It can also be used to automatically extract data from receipts for loyalty program points or identity documents for verification purposes.
There are two types of data entry automation:
Rule-based data entry automation works by looking for data in specific locations on a document that are specified by programmers. It doesn't work well with semi-structured or unstructured documents, as the layouts and locations of information are usually not fixed.
This data entry automation technology uses algorithms that can learn and adapt to different data formats. Machine learning data entry automation is more versatile and can be used with a wider range of data sources, including unstructured data sources such as PDFs and images.
Investing in data entry automation can benefit your business in many ways. Here are some of the key advantages:
Data entry is a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. Workers have to sit in front of computers for hours, inputting data into different fields. Businesses often have to hire more staff for manual data entry or outsource it; however, the costs can be quite high if there are a significant amount of documents to process on a daily basis.
With data entry automation, businesses can reduce their data entry costs significantly. The initial investment may be higher than with manual data entry, but the long-term savings will more than make up for it.
As data entry is a manual process, it's prone to errors.
Data entry automation, on the other hand, is much more accurate. With rule-based data entry automation, data is entered into the system automatically according to pre-defined rules. With machine learning data entry automation, data is entered into the system by algorithms that have been trained to recognize different data formats. This results in fewer errors and more accurate data. Moreover, accuracy of data entry automation is often higher because there will be some pre-processing and post-processing of images and the results can also get verified by employees.
Data entry automation can also help businesses boost their operational efficiency. By automating data entry, businesses can free up their employees' time so they can focus on more strategic tasks. This also allows businesses to process data much faster, as data is entered into the system automatically and doesn't have to be manually inputted.
Data entry is a tedious and monotonous task that doesn't require much skill. As such, it's often seen as a low-value task that can be easily outsourced or automated.
By automating data entry, businesses can free up their employees' time so they can focus on more strategic tasks. This allows businesses to maximize their employees' value and use their skills more effectively.
By automating data entry, businesses can reduce the time it takes to input data into their systems. This means that businesses can provide faster and more efficient customer service.
For example, data entry automation powered by OCR and Machine Learning can extract data from different identity documents during customer onboarding so that customers will not have to enter their information one field at a time. This will significantly shorter the time it takes for customers to finish their application or onboarding process.
Data entry automation can also do wonders for your marketing efforts. With data entry automation, businesses can have a complete and up-to-date view of their customer data. Businesses can extract information from different data fields, such as product name, product amount, price, etc., from consumers’ receipts. This allows businesses to segment their customers more effectively and target them with more personalized marketing campaigns.
The advent of automated data entry processes has revolutionized the way organizations handle vast amounts of unstructured data. Here are the key stages of an automated data entry process:
The first step in this process is acquiring raw unstructured data that contains the information to be extracted. This data can come from various sources such as scanned documents, images, PDFs, emails, and more. It will then be imported to the data entry automation software for further processing.
The conditions of the images might not be optimal for extraction. The images may be slightly distorted, defected with image noise, or even tilted, making it harder for automated data entry solutions to identify the information clearly. To maximize the accuracy, the images will first be pre-processed. Some common pre-processing techniques may include distortion correction for scanned documents and images, noise reduction to eliminate irrelevant information, and image quality improvement techniques to enhance data readability.
Once the documents are preprocessed, the automated extractor employs advanced techniques such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Machine Learning (ML), and Natural Language Processing (NLP), to identify and extract relevant data. The extractor will learn and understand the content and structure of the documents to pinpoint key information.
For example, in a scanned invoice, the extractor identifies fields like date, invoice number, items, quantities, and prices, to be extracted.
The extracted data is then subjected to validation, which can be carried out in two ways. It can either be machine learning algorithms assessing the extracted data against a reference dataset to identify inconsistencies or errors, or manual validation by human operators to cross-check the accuracy of the extraction. This feedback loop helps train and refine the automated system over time, improving its accuracy.
After successful validation, the extracted data is converted into an easily digestible structured format for further processing and analysis. This structured output can be in XML, CSV, JSON, or other standardize formats. This step ensures that the extracted information can be seamlessly integrated into an existing database, spreadsheet, or analysis tool.
Any business can leverage data entry automation to improve its data management process. Here are some examples of how businesses are using data entry automation:
One way businesses can leverage data entry automation is by automating their finance and accounting tasks. Data entry automation can help businesses automate their invoicing, bookkeeping, and payroll processes. This can help businesses save time and improve their financial data accuracy.
Another way businesses can leverage data entry automation is by using it to automate their KYC processes. Data entry automation can help businesses automatically extract important information from identity documents, like IDs, passports, driver's licenses, and proof of address, to verify clients' identities. This can help businesses save time and provide better customer services.
Another way businesses can leverage data entry automation is by using it to automate their loyalty programs. Data entry automation can help businesses automatically extract data from receipts and convert it into loyalty points. Consumers can easily gain loyalty points by uploading images of their receipts to loyalty program apps that are integrated with data entry automation or document processing solutions.
Now that you know the benefits of data entry automation, you may be wondering how you can implement it in your business. Here are a few steps to get started:
The first step is to identify where your data is coming from and how it will be formatted. For instance, you may need to extract data from customer orders, invoices, financial data, or KYC documents. Then, you will have to determine what information is needed from them,
For example, some application processes require that customers provide their bank statements as a proof of address. In this case, banks will need to extract the name, address, and date of issue from the bank statement and the summary of transaction will not be needed.
Once you've defined your processes and identified your data sources, you'll need to select the data entry software that you'll use. Consider the following factors as you make a decision:
First, consider the features of data entry software. For example, a retailer that wants to automate entering data from consumers’ receipts will need to look for solutions that can scan the receipts, extract the data, and return structured data for customers to accumulate loyalty points.
Second, consider how easy data entry software is to use. You'll want to select software that provides simple and clear navigation. You should be able to get started with data entry automation quickly and easily.
Data entry software can vary in price, so be sure to select software that fits your budget. Most solutions come with several pricing options, so you can choose the plan that fits your needs.
Finally, consider data entry software integration. You'll want to select software that integrates with your existing business applications so you can automate your data entry processes and send the data to other software seamlessly.
Once you've selected data entry software, you'll need to set it up. This typically involves installing the software, if it’s on-premise, or setting it up and configuring it to work with your data sources. The best solutions come with step-by-step instructions that make it easy to get started with data entry automation. However, if you need assistance, most data entry software providers offer 24/7 customer support.
Once data entry software is set up, you'll need to train your employees on how to use it. The best data entry solutions come with training materials, like video tutorials and user manuals, that can help your employees learn how to use data entry software quickly and easily.
You'll need to monitor your data entry processes to ensure they're working smoothly. The best data entry solutions come with built-in reporting tools that make it easy to track your data entry processes and identify any issues.
As you use data entry software, you may need to make adjustments to your data entry processes. For instance, you may find that you need to add or remove data sources, change data entry software settings, or modify your data entry processes. The best data entry solutions make it easy to make changes so you can keep your data entry processes running smoothly.
Automating your data entry can save you time and money. FormX, an Intelligent Document Processing solution, has helped various businesses across the globe automate data extraction and data entry. FormX is designed to be easy to use and integrates seamlessly with your existing business applications with simple API. Moreover, FormX has several pre-trained data extraction models, including receipt, bank statement, ID, driver’s license, passport, and more, to help you automate data entry and expedite different business processes.
Contact us and tell us about your use cases and see how FormX can help you automate data entry with ease.