Why do businesses need data entry in the first place? There’s always a need for entering data into documents, forms, databases, and records - regardless of the type of business you’re running. It’s a skill set that aids you in maintaining records of everything important for future reference on decision making.
Some may think data entry is an easy task. In reality, it’s not; accuracy is the name of the game. To increase the accuracy of your data entry projects, you’ll need to follow the best practices.
Set quality standards.
Every data entry project should have a minimal set of quality standards the operators must adhere to. These standards should be compatible with the data entry system you use and your input sources of data.
Make sure that the data you’re entering is correct via a quality assurance methodology. At the most basic, even spreadsheet tools such as Google Sheets and MS Excel have data validation tools in them that will allow you to control the kind of information entered.
Check the format.
Once you’re done entering data, make sure to save it in a format that can be read by any application anywhere. Avoid using a proprietary format as it will cause data loss when it becomes obsolete. Instead, use open formats such as ASCII and Unicode, which are unencrypted and uncompressed.
Identify data entry errors.
You should be able to recognize both the common and uncommon data entry errors so you’ll be able to avoid them. These errors include (1) inconsistent formats for name, location, and contact details, (2) wrong order of columns, and (3) inserting different types of information in one column. Of course, these errors should be corrected so they won’t be repeated.
Be consistent in filing columns and rows.
Make sure to enter data in the same way consistently on a single data sheet (not in blocks or chunks located in different places). Tag different columns and rows with different labels (which indicate their alphabet or numeric status) and file them with letters or numbers to make your data easier to understand and work on - whether you want to transfer it, convert it to another format, or analyze it.
Deal with missing data.
Failure to identify and locate missing data during data entry procedures can lead to significant losses. Fortunately, you can deal with missing data before it becomes a problem. You can leave the field empty (assign null or no value to it), enter 9999 or any distinct value in numeric fields, use NA in text fields, or place data flags in a separate column to define the missing value.
Keep a log.
Every data entry project needs an entry log. The log may record the following: number of fields with missing, wrong and inaccurate data, fields that need clarification, when the error was noted, and when the action was taken. Since the log provides a record of difficulties and errors encountered during the project, it can be useful in tweaking the data entry process and project management. But for the log to be useful, it must be complete and accurate.
Following the tips discussed above will help you achieve the ultimate goal of data entry - a valid, organized data set with a format that can easily be accessed and used.