August 5, 2022
Factors Affecting Data Entry Cost – Work Performed on Axion’s System
All “standard” data entry work is performed using scanned images, either those provided by the client, or by our scanning partner. It is “heads-down” data entry where the task is literally “key what you see” with no other operations being performed.
When doing the work on our system, here are the basic processes and cost drivers:
Most customers now send us scanned images due to cost, document security, and turnaround time considerations; however, customers not having imaging capabilities or unable to outsource the imaging, will send us hard copy documents. Factors affecting the cost include:
- Are documents being mailed one at a time, for example in connection with a direct marketing campaign, or in large batches?
- How often will we receive documents? Daily? Weekly, Monthly? All at one time?
- Will a P.O. Box need to be set up?
- Will any document preparation be needed, such as: opening envelopes, unfolding, removal of attachments, tear-off portions, staples, Post-It notes, stickers, etc.?
- Document size – This affects throughput. Also, too small or too big cannot be scanned.
- Document uniformity – Are they all the same size? Are there differences in shading?
- Paper type – is the paper real thin or have a sticker attached?
- Document condition — Poor quality documents will require extra time.
- Document arrangement – To be scanned efficiently, all documents must be right side up and facing the same direction. There can be no staples, paper clips, etc., and the documents must all be flat (unfolded). The cost of document preparation usually exceeds the actual cost of scanning.
- Batch integrity – Can we scan continuously, or do we have to retain client batch integrity?
Once documents have been scanned, the images and are imported into our data entry system. For each project, a “template” is developed within Axion’s data entry system, programmed for the specific fields on the form. Each field can be programmed to restrict data entry to acceptable values. Any business rules a client defines for specific fields or forms can be programmed into each template.
One example of specialized programming we incorporate involves address correction and verification. Other examples include embedding formula validations or databased look-ups in fields. The factors affecting the cost of programming include the following:
- Document complexity –size, number of pages, number of fields per page, number of records per page.
- Document uniformity — are there multiple versions of the source document? Validations required — for example, integrating client-provided lookup tables, address correction, etc.
- Format of output file required
- Programming is a one-time cost (unless the source document changes) that will generally average 500-750 for a single-page document.
Data Entry – Key-From-Image/OCR: Using the data entry template developed for a specific project, our data entry operators key the required data from scanned images. All work is performed on Axion’s cloud-based network residing on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
Data entry operator workstations connected to Axion’s cloud-based network function merely as “dumb terminals”. They cannot download or print anything. Using a split-screen, the operators view “snippets” of the scanned image in one part of the screen, and the data entry fields in the other part of the screen. The factors affecting the amount of time it will take to process a document, and hence the cost include the following:
- Number of fields to be keyed
- Number of characters in each field
- Type of data – numeric, alpha, alphanumeric
- Complexity – having numerous business rules that must be followed can slow things down, especially at the beginning of a project.
- Form Design – this is often overlooked but can have a huge impact on data entry Legibility – handwritten vs. typed; also, using a “constrained” form with each handwritten character printed in a separate box improves legibility; also, the quality of the source document may affect the quality of the scan and hence legibility.
All the above affect the average operator production rate per hour. To the extent the customer has been doing the work in-house, we will use their historical average as a good-faith estimate upon which to determine the per record/document operator cost. The cost of the actual data entry is the hardest one to estimate, and most vendors will be reluctant to provide a firm fee quote without seeing, and if possible, testing a representative sample of actual source documents.
- Required accuracy – For single-key data entry, our US workers generally achieve accuracy ranging from 96-98%, depending on the type of data (see above). If greater levels of accuracy are required, the client may opt for having us double key the entire document or selected fields. Click here for a full discussion of Re-key verification and other methods used to control accuracy.
- Start-up Costs: A project manager is assigned to every customer, who will gain a full understanding of the project, business rules, staffing, and turnaround requirements. The project manager will develop training materials, arrange for a training set of documents, if possible, train the data entry staff and monitor performance. Depending on the complexity of the project and how aggressive the ramp-up schedule or completion requirements are, a separate fee may be charged to defray the associated cost. This is especially true in the case of one-time projects. For ongoing projects, long project duration and high volumes may mitigate the need for recouping this cost right away.
- Ongoing Project Management: The project complexity, turnaround requirements, number of staff required, the incidence of “exceptions to the rule” that must be discussed with the customer, and the required frequency of transmitting data output files all affect manager time, the cost of which can be disproportionate to the actual data entry cost, especially for smaller projects.
Because every project is unique and each client has different goals and objectives, it is not practical to take a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to data entry pricing. The only good measure is to let us take a look at your project. That way we can give you a reasonable fee estimate based on the factors discussed above.
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