Difference Between Data Entry & Data Input
The English language is full of words that seem to have a meaning that is almost the same as another word, or maybe a few words. Very often using one for the other may not result in any material difference in the outcome you are trying to achieve or what you are trying to communicate.
Huge and Vast
Colossal and Immense
Acquired and Obtained
Small and Tiny
But why are we discussing this? We are not in a language class, are we?
That is right. We are not in a language class.
The same thing can happen in business too. We have a pair of words that seem to mean almost the same thing, and could be used interchangeably for the most part, but could have finer nuances which could make all the difference in certain situations.
The pair of words (or phrases, since they are a set of two words each) that we are going to discuss, and that have significant usage in the BPO business, are:
Data Entry and Data Input
What is Data Entry?
In the digital world that we live in, digitized data lends itself in many ways to slicing and dicing that non-digital data does not, expanding manifold the applications. For example, data about the parameters at birth of a million children born in a specified period of time, that is available on a spreadsheet can be easily analysed to identify causes and correlations with disease, malnutrition, physical condition of mothers, etc. The same information, if only available in manual records, will either take a lot of time and resource to crunch, or be limited to approximations. Besides, the data on the spreadsheet can be combined with other spreadsheets and applications to draw even wider inferences and actionables from.
As the digital era dawned only a few decades back, there is a lot of information that is still present in legacy formats that digital systems cannot process. Some of this information will gradually become irrelevant through the process of aging. Information that is still relevant, or is expected to continue to be relevant, will, at some stage, be digitized, or converted to formats that can be processed by computers. In all likelihood, this will be done through the process of data entry, by manually keying in relevant pieces of data into a form or defined format in a software application.
Recognized as one of the top 3 BPO providers in the world in data services, oWorkers has deep expertise spanning 8 years of operations across over 100 client engagements.
What is Data Input?
Any information that is provided to a computer or a software program is known as input. Since the information provided is also considered to be data, the process of providing information to the computer is also known as data input.
The input enables the computer to do what is designed to do and produce an output. Thus, the word or phrase that you type into the text box of your search engine is the input which it will process and produce an output for you.
The employee code that you need to type in along with an impression of your thumb is the input your employer’s attendance tracking system needs every morning to record your presence, for those who are still physically going to work.
With over 75% of our client base being technology companies, and as a trusted partner of several unicorn marketplaces, oWorkers stands tall amongst its competitors for all data related support.
Using the right term at the right time
With that as the basic understanding, we could now delve deeper and try to understand the differences between the two a bit better, hopefully leading to the right term being used at the right time and at the right place.
Who does it
Data entry being the process of transferring data from manual records to a digital database, is done either entirely manually, or with manual support. While a lot of progress has been made in technologies that can read unstructured data, at the end, only human beings have the intelligence and nuanced understanding to be able to make sense of data that does not follow any pattern or format. Hence, even where such tools are deployed to read and convert data, human oversight becomes necessary to ensure that the data being converted will be usable. Hence, the final step of data entry rests with human beings. When in doubt, dial a human!
Moreover, the human resources deployed for this data entry could come from any group of trained resources who are willing, able and available to do the work. It requires human intelligence, but not necessarily that of the user of the converted data, hence outsourcing is commonly used in this process. Work is generally bulked up and outsourced to a person or team that does the data entry as per requirements.
Data input being the process of providing relevant information to a software program so that it can produce output, can be done by anyone who has interest in the output. Of course, the person with interest in the output could also outsource the task to someone else for a consideration, if that is expected to yield better results. It is also possible that nobody does it; it could be an automated process.
With our model of employment, as opposed to relying on contractors and freelancers for our work, oWorkers provides a pool of trained resources for all your requirements. As a preferred employer in all our locations, we attract a constant flow of candidates enabling us to choose the most suitable. We are also able to provide support for temporary volume spikes, of upto 100 people in 48 hours, instead of hiring for peaks and keeping resources idle.
By entering data, you make information available to computer systems in a manner and form where it can be understood and acted upon by them. The information by itself is perhaps relevant and useful in many different ways but that can only be realized if it becomes computer readable. Hence, the grand purpose of data entry is to make information, so far maintained in manual formats, available to computer systems. It could be the medical history of an individual or the performance review of employees of an organization or feedback left by patrons of a restaurant. Once digitized, its full power is unleashed.
By inputting data, on the other hand, you do not achieve a single grand purpose the attainment of which unleashes the full power of that data. Its application is much more contextual. When you draw money from an ATM machine, you specify the amount you wish to withdraw. That is the input the ATM software needs to complete the processing and hand out the cash to you. When a doctor wishes to pull out your medical history, she will provide a key to the software which could be your mobile number or a National ID, based on which the computer will identify and bring up your record. The mobile or ID number becomes the input in this case. There is no other grand purpose.
Whatever the purpose, oWorkers teams across its 3 global locations are available for providing support in over 22 of the most common global languages.
How it is done
The purpose being to make it useful for computers, it follows that in its current shape and form the information is not. Once it has been put through the data entry process, it will become usable. With advances in Optical Character Reader (OCR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, it has been expected that data entry could be automated. To some extent, it has been, with automated readers being able to pick information off manual sheets and populate application tables and cells as required. However, these automated systems often come up against a wall and need to go back to humans for help, whether it is to read handwritten information, or information that is unformatted. Hence, manual is really the final solution for data entry work, even if some parts may be automated. Such is the relevance of manual intervention in this process of making manual data readable, that it is also often called the process of data manifestation.
Data input, on the other hand, could be done in many ways. All options are open. It really depends on the requirement and the application. It could be a manual entry into an input box of a search engine which then processes the input and produces the output. It could be an automated input from a digital database based on criteria already known to the software. Or, it could be a manual database that has been recently digitized through the process of data entry.
Our ISO certified (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) operations and protocols provide us the stability to cater to varying requirements of different processes. We are also GDPR compliant as a matter of requirement, as we operate out of the Eurozone.
Source of the data
In the process of entering data, the source is invariably a piece of paper on which is inscribed some information that is expected to be relevant in the future. Because of its expected future use, it needs to be transferred from its current storage medium onto a medium where it becomes easy to retrieve as well as process. One could extend the logic and include inscriptions on cave walls and stone tablets as sources of information needing to be made useful for posterity by transcribing on to a software application.
The destination medium is understood to be a digital storage facility, possibly in the cloud. The source media, though paper, could be of different ‘forms’ or even without a ‘form,’ ‘free range’ writing so to say, like a doctor’s prescription, or the Resume of a candidate who applied for a job with it. While a Resume does have a format, as each Resume is a work of art and no two are similar, it should be considered as part of the ‘free range’ information.
The destination is necessarily different from the source medium.
In the process of inputting data, the source need not be different. In fact, conceptually, it does not even require moving information from one medium to another. The software asking for an input is already a part of the digital world. If it gets an input, it will process it. That input could be manual, as we have seen in a few examples like that of the ATM, or it could be drawn from another part of the digital world.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly developing and occupying a unique space in this arena, some sort of a middle ground. While the software model ingests raw data which it does not normally understand, with the help of data annotation and labelling, this raw data has begun to be understood by machines and is expected to constitute an increasingly large volume of input in future AI-based programs.
Keeping pace with developments in the world, oWorkers is now a leading provider of data annotation and data labelling services to clients from across the world.
Data entry being a manual process, needs to be verified or checked manually too. Validation is required so that errors can be eliminated at the stage of entry rather than having to work with flawed results as a result of errors that crept in at the entry stage.
The two common methods used for checking for errors are:
Another person checks the entered data against the source, either fully or based on a sample selection, depending on the sensitivity of the data.
Two people key in the same data into a software. Thereafter, once done, the entries are compared against each other and variance highlighted. Again, depending on sensitivity of the information and the level of variance, it could either be taken on board as is, or variances thrown out will be checked and corrected.
As data input is on a software application that is expected to be smart, there is control in terms of what will be accepted. For example, the ATM input will not accept a non-numeric input when you are trying to withdraw cash from the machine. At the same time, the software has no way of knowing whether you wished to draw $100 but entered $200 by mistake. It will ask for validation by asking a question like “are you sure?” but beyond that will be guided by your input.
oWorkers is able to offer validation and quality that its clients from Europe and North America are accustomed to, while taking 80% off their bill for the service.
Data entry requires basic tools for accessing a software, and is normally only a keyboard and mouse. While technically the destination software, where information has to reach, could be accessed through other devices like handphones and tablets too, accessing a software through a keyboard and mouse is considered to be the fastest. Since data entry is expected to involve large volumes of data, using the quickest method would be a significant saving in terms of time and resources.
Tools used for data input could be more diverse, as the focus is not on keying in large volumes of data in the shortest possible time. Continuing with the example we have used in this article, of the ATM, it could be the ATM keypad through which it is done.
With its partnerships with leading technology providers, oWorkers gets access to cutting-edge technologies and is able to deploy them for the benefit of client processes.
Led by a team that has over 30 years of hands-on experience in the industry, oWorkers is the partner of choice for corporations around the world for all data related requirements.