How Can Outsourced Data Entry Processes Improve Your Business Intelligence
In today’s digital world, almost everything we do in our private lives and business can be collected as data.
Entire industries are dedicated to taking advantage of data collected like search engines and social media.
Collecting all types data allows such businesses to make very precise business decisions.
Just a few years ago even small levels of data collection and analysis would not have been possible for small or medium size businesses.
But technology and tools have advanced so much that business data collection is no longer a significant expense.
This is especially not the case when you outsource the collection and entry process to a virtual assistant.
Such a highly repetitive task is an ideal target for outsourcing.
On this page you’ll find out exactly why collecting data is so important and how it will make you operate a much more effective business.
You’ll also understand what options you have when it comes to outsourcing.
If you already have some data entry tasks that you want to hand over to a VA quickly then contact Outsource Workers today.
We’re able to give you all the advice necessary and take care of the entire process.
Importance Of Collecting Data
Data collection has gained significant importance in the last 10 years, and these days you hear a lot more references to “Big Data”.
This is essentially where large corporations are collecting data about all their internal and external transactions.
The idea is that the more data you collect the more analysis and better decision making can be made.
But what exactly does this mean for smaller businesses?
Monitor Business Performance
The first thing that data collection does is give you a basis on which to monitor your performance.
Accounting is one of the oldest ways of collecting business data about sales, costs, payroll, etc. And this information ultimately allows you to see how profitable you are.
With more modern accounting software you can break that visualisation of financial data down by year or month. And you drill even deeper into cash flow throughout the year.
While this is an obvious way that most businesses collect data, the same can be done for things like phone calls with vendors and clients, website traffic, responses to advertising and practically anything that you can quantify.
Streamlining your business is all about improving processes and systemising everything you do.
Once you have systems and processes in place it all comes down to making improvements to them.
But how can you say for sure if a process change is working?
Often your gut feeling will tell you the answer.
But more often than not you don’t want to be relying on that.
You will achieve far more reliable results if you can monitor and measure your processes and let the data analysis provide you with a tangible answer.
This is one of the most powerful insights you can gain from successful data collection and analysis.
When this is done right then you can gain significant competitive advantages that help you succeed in a far more reliable way.
Business intelligence is the ability to better understand your clients and markets.
When you combine internal and external data sources about your industry you end up with a very valuable asset.
This will allow you to better understand how clients and vendors react to difference market influences.
Whether that is buyer behaviour at different times of the year or subtle price changes due to industry news.
When you have data at hand for a long enough time period, then you will ultimately be able to make far better business decisions.
Analysing Data Is Critical For Making Business Decisions
Every decision you make in business has risks associated to them.
Some decisions are easy to make and your experience will give you a lot of confidence in them. But then there are the really tough decisions that you regularly encounter.
Maybe you’re planning some business expansion, or you want to change your advertising processes.
The same difficulty can arise if you start getting listings from an area you aren’t that familiar with.
When you encounter these difficult situations, you will increase your chances of making the right ones, as long as you have some tangible data to back them up. In the next couple of sections, we’ll explore why data analysis is so important.
Confidence In Decisions
Those everyday decisions about small things are often easy to make. And you don’t want to consult your data for every possible choice you have to make.
This would be hugely inefficient and is very much overkill. You still want to be relying on your experience and gut instincts for the smaller challenges you encounter.
But when you have bigger decisions to make that impact process changes, staffing or making strategic changes or improvements, then it’s much easier to do if you have tangible data back up those decisions.
It will boost your confidence because you take a lot of the guess work out of it.
The other reason it’s so important is that it gives you traceability for the decisions you make. If you make a good or bad decision, you can look back after the fact to see what information you used to get to that decision.
This is not only important for analysis on past decisions. Such traceability is also vital to ensure you make consistently good decisions in the future.
Similar situations can be encountered all the time, and with the data to back up decisions you can make sure you regularly make the best possible ones.
The Data Pyramid
In order to visualise why data is so important to your business it helps to look at the data pyramid. This is a visual concept that does a great job at showing that data is the foundation on which to build knowledge and gain wisdom.
Here is what the pyramid looks like:
Raw data in and of itself doesn’t really tell you anything. It certainly has value, but without analysis, structuring and presentation of that data you don’t actually have valuable information.
In order to get information from data you have to present it in a way that provides meaning.
This can be the changes in cash flow over time, or a graphical display of the number of sales throughout the year. Or even the open rate of an email newsletter on different days of the week.
Once you are presented with actual information you can then use that to influence your decision making. It helps you fine tune your process in a trial and error fashion.
Every change can then be measured and compared to see whether there is a positive or negative effect.
Finally, by keeping track of all your decisions and the reasons they were made you will gain huge business and market insights.
This wisdom is a very powerful tool to help you become more competitive and increase your bottom line.
5 Steps To Data Driven Decisions
When it comes to implementing a process for more data driven decision making there are 5 critical steps that you need to follow.
Now that you understand the data pyramid explained above, you’re in the best position to start this process.
- Define The Types Of Decisions
Before you blindly start collecting data you need to understand what types of decision processes you want to improve. Get a clear picture of some common judgement calls you make and then figure out what information you need to come to better conclusions.
- Identify Measurable Data
With the information you need defined, you can then take a closer look at what data feeds into creating that information. This can be financial transactions, customer contact, vendor pricing or sales data from the open market. The more data points you can identify the better; and the more precisely you can define them the easier it will be to structure them into information.
- Collect The Data
Once the first two steps are complete, this step becomes a pure admin task. You want your staff to keep track of certain transactions they make and then get that data entered in a format that makes it easy to analyse. This is one of those steps that can become the most time consuming in the long run. If you don’t have the capacity to collect and enter data then talk to one of our advisers at Outsource Workers today. This is an ideal task for a virtual assistant to take on, and we can get you up and running in a matter of weeks.
- Analyse The Data
Once enough data has been collected, you’ll be in a position to do some analysis. There are many tools available, with the simplest ones being a straightforward spreadsheet with some charts and graphs. More complex tools are also available, and your choice will largely depend on how much data is involved and how critical the information to display is.
- Assess Knowledge Gained
Once you can display information and refine it to the stage where it is exactly what you need, then you’re ready to look at what knowledge you have gained. The important thing here is to keep written track over time of what you think the information is telling you. Then link that back to business decisions you make so that any changes in the future can quickly highlight areas where you may need to make some adjustments.
What Data Do You Need To Collect?
Many of the largest corporations in the world have started collecting basically every possible piece of information in their business.
This is commonly referred to as Big Data and the idea is that you can always figure out what to do with it all later.
For smaller businesses that is not going to be a viable option. In the above 5 step process you have learned that you first need to define what types of decisions you want to back up with data.
In this section we’ll try and pint you towards some sources that you should consider.
Your Own Business Transaction Data
You will already be collecting data about your financial transactions in order to keep your books in order.
However, practically anything that can be quantified and measured is a viable source for data collection.
One example would be to collect the date, time and length of every incoming call.
You can then further categorise each call into client or vendor, sales or information, and any other common types you receive.
This information can then help you to identify peak times and responses to different advertising campaigns.
Essentially, any type of business process that is repeated on a regular basis can be measured and collected.
Wider Market Data
There are countless sources of market data, especially in the real estate industry.
Anything from the number of sales to the number of for sale properties to average prices by area is readily available.
Some of it is even regularly published in very well-presented information that you can use as is.
But if you can work out how to combine industry data with your own data collected, then you can gain some really powerful insights.
Not only are you relying on your own experiences, but you can compare them to those of the wider industry.
This can help identify trends before they become widely known.
Client And Vendor Data
As already mentioned, this goes beyond just financial transactions.
You can keep track of the number of times people contact you and when those contacts happen.
Even their locations and past inquiries can help you gain some very valuable insights.
For example, multiple calls from the same potential buyer or a new vendor can indicate that they are very eager to do business with you. But unless you keep track of the contact data, you might struggle to identify such opportunities.
Invest The Time And Effort
Getting to the stage where you have reliable data and a process to analyse that data takes time and effort.
There is quite a bit of planning involved, but the return on investment can be huge. In this section we’ll give you some tips on how to make sure you set yourself up for success.
Align Your Business Processes
Once you have identified the areas of your business where you want to make your decision making more data driven, you are in a great position to identify all the associated businesses processes.
It’s going to be very important that you don’t just identify the data points you want to collect. But you also have to adjust your processes to make sure that data points are collected and recorded on a consistent basis.
And the only way you can make sure of that is to…
Educate Your Staff On Importance Of Data
Unless your team is fully on board you will end up with very unreliable data. And when this happens then you can quickly end up making some very poor business choices.
It is vital that everyone understands what role they have to play and then use due diligence to constantly record the data.
As long as they understand that it will help them and the business succeed, you will be in a much better position to be able to rely on the data.
Regularly Evaluate Your Data Points
As you go through the data analysis process you want to constantly check if there is anything missing.
Maybe you missed a data point during the initial planning. Or you’ve started identifying a new trend and want to gain some more insights.
The important thing to remember is that business is constantly changing and you will have to adapt your data collection to these changes.
Tips To Help Speed Up Data Entry
Whether you or one of your staff is responsible for data entry, there are a few tips that will help you speed up the process.
There are many sophisticated enterprise tools available that will take care of a lot of the tips below. But if you cannot justify those types of expenses, then the following can easily be set up in spreadsheets as well.
One thing that takes up a lot of time is manually entering the same thing on a regular basis.
Especially when it has to be typed in. If there are data points that are recorded in a Yes/No fashion, then you can speed things up significantly by creating checkboxes.
It might only save a second each time, but if you have hundreds or thousands of entries to be completed then these small improvements will make a huge difference.
Define Common Default Options
Another great way to speed things up and ensure more consistent data is to set up default options that can be selected from a drop-down menu.
The idea is simple. You predefine a list of options and then for each entry you select from that list.
This avoids simple typos and reduces the time needed to type in the information.
Use Data Interdependencies
This can be done in a few different ways.
One way is to automatically populate one data point dependent on what another is set to.
For example, if you have a lot of address data to enter then you can automatically set the state dependent on the post code or city entered.
Basically, any time one data point is reliant on another you can speed up the process and avoid human error.
Hire A Designated Person
Data entry is tedious and time consuming, and not something you want to do yourself.
Because it is a very repetitive task that can be highly systemised it is the perfect task to hand over to a Virtual Assistant.
Further down on this page you’ll find out what you need to do to hire a great data entry VA.
But if this hiring process isn’t something you’re familiar with or you don’t have the time, then Outsource Workers has the solution for you.
We can provide you with a VA either from our pool of staff or we will find a suitable person for you.
All the interviewing, hiring and salary is taken care of by our team and you can be up and running in less than 2 weeks. Just pick up the phone and talk to one of our advisors today.
Data Is Only Valuable If Entered Correctly
We already briefly mentioned this in the above section on investing the time and effort, but it is a point worth repeating.
If you don’t consistently record and enter data in an accurate way, then this entire process can pose some significant risks.
Risk Of Inaccurate Data
If you end up with inconsistent or incorrect data, then your entire analysis and information presentation can end up telling a very different story.
In accounting this can quickly and commonly happen when an extra “0” is added into a transaction.
More often than not, such errors are quickly identified and dealt with.
But smaller errors in the way you record business transaction data may go completely unnoticed. Or there may be a gap in the data where it wasn’t correctly saved.
The result is information based on wrong data. And if this is not corrected before you make decisions then you could end up making a choice that is opposite to what you should actually be doing.
System And Manual Validation
High end data entry systems are able to be set up validations that warn if data entered looks to be significantly out of range. Or if there are sudden gaps in the data, these can be highlighted.
Similar things can be done with spreadsheets as well, where you can have visible formatting or validation code implemented that highlights data that is significantly out of an average range.
Alternatively, you can consider having someone regularly spot check the data that has been entered. This is a good quality assurance practice to have and helps identify issues before they affect your business.
Data Entry Is Not A Revenue Driving Effort
While the ultimate goal of data entry is making better decisions that save costs or bring in more revenue, the actual task is not a Dollar productive one.
Productive Vs. Non-Productive Tasks
Our homepage has a lot more detailed information on identifying non-productive tasks, but we do want to quickly summarise it here.
Essentially, actions you take in your daily work that directly result in bringing in revenue would be Dollar productive ones.
These can be dealing with buyers and sellers to negotiate sales, or with vendors to get better deals.
However, highly repetitive admin tasks that take up a lot of time will not help you bring in more revenue. They are distracting and can significantly disrupt your productive work.
Focus on Decision Making Not Data Gathering
Rather than spending time on recording and entering transaction data, you should focus on making better business decisions based on the information and knowledge you gain.
This helps you to work on your business rather than in it and will give you a great deal of confidence as you gather more data and make better choices.
Why You Should Outsource Data Entry Efforts
In the previous section we already mentioned that data entry is not a productive task and you should certainly not be doing this yourself.
It is an ideal task to hand over to a virtual assistant, and here are the main reasons why.
If you have ever spent some time collecting and entering data, then you understand how time consuming it really is.
There are a few things you can do like scanning documents to help with the process, but ultimately it still comes down to manual processing.
Depending on how much data you are collecting this can take up a lot of time every week.
The task is also extremely repetitive. This means you really need to be in the frame of mind for this and actually enjoy it.
From an outsourcing perspective, repetitive is one of the most important characteristics of a task.
The more repetitive it is, the easier it is to systemise and train a dedicated person to perform.
Cost Effective Solution
Outsourcing to a VA based in the Philippines is an extremely cost-effective way to solve the problem.
Not only will you save on salary, but you don’t have to worry about providing office space, computers and phone equipment.
This significantly impacts your operating costs, and you still end up with processes you need.
Now that you know why it’s an ideal candidate for outsourcing, let’s look at how to get an assistant onto your team.
How To Hire A Data Entry VA
The detailed hiring process for VAs is outlined on our homepage.
When it comes to hiring someone for data entry work, there are just some slight modifications you want to make to that process.
One thing you want to test every potential hire for is their typing speed. At a minimum you want to find someone who can type at 60 words per minute or faster.
Remember this is data entry and there could be a lot of it, so speed is absolutely essential.
One way of testing this is to ask for a certain amount of text to be typed into a Google doc directly while you’re on a video chat.
That way you can make sure they are actually doing the test.
Attention To Detail
Once the data has been entered you want to make sure that it’s accurate.
Typos and errors should be at a minimum.
You can also test this by providing one set of accurate data and another with a couple of errors and ask the interviewees to find the errors.
Experience With Tools And Databases
You don’t need someone who can set up a database and do advanced datamining scripts.
But your ideal candidate will understand how databases work and will be familiar with a few different tools.
One tool they should always be familiar with is Excel, as this can often become a necessary app for recording data.
Let Outsource Workers Take Care Of The Process
If you’re not totally familiar with data entry processes and interviewing for some of the technical skills required, then it’s a much easier option to have Outsource Workers take care of it.
You can simply decide on how many hours a week you need someone for and we will find the right person in a matter of days.
It’s a very hands-off approach right up to the point where you introduce them to your individual needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Data Entry?
Data entry involves taking simple information about business transactions and entering them into a format that can then be used to analyse.
The source can be handwritten or system entered, and the important thing is to get into a format that can easily be analysed to create valuable information.
How Soon Can You Have A VA On Board?
If you go through the search, hiring and training process yourself you would want to allow for 4 to 6 weeks. But if you let Outsource Workers take care of the process then you could be ready and set up with a dedicated VA in less than 2 weeks.
How Much Will A VA Cost?
At Outsource Workers you can hire a VA from as little as $7 per hour, and a minimum of 10 hours per week.
You receive a simple invoice for the hours you need and we take care of all the hiring, initial training, salary, vacation and sick pay. And the best thing is that you won’t have to find office space either.
What Quality Control Do You Need?
As part of the work you assign to your VA you want to make sure that there are some quality controls in place as well.
At first this might take some extra effort on your behalf. This is mainly during the on-boarding phase when you need to be more diligent in checking the data.
The more data you record the more quality checks you want to put in place. And it can quickly become a good idea to hire an additional VA to do some quality control.
What About Data Security?
Security can become an issue when you are dealing with personal and payment information.
However, that is going to be a concern whether you hire someone remotely or in house.
Before you allow access to such information you can always run with an initial trial period to build up trust.
With the right data entry systems in place you can also restrict access to certain information unless it becomes necessary.
Call Outsource Workers Today!
If any or all of this process sounds like more than you have time or experience to do yourself, then talk to one of our advisers today.
We can give you all the information you need to work out exactly how much help you need and how to get you started as quickly as possible.
Just pick up the phone for free advice and options.