Automated vs. Manual Data Entry — All You Need to Know

6 min readFeb 8, 2021


Automated or Manual Data Entry — What to choose?

Either manual or automated data entry, the successful application of a data entry approach is governed by preliminary analysis around suitability of the selected approach to your business problems.

The amount of data in the world has almost doubled in last two years, and there has been a rapid rise in use of unconventional methods to capture data. While data explosion means more opportunities for businesses to drive advanced analytics and get access to out-of-the box insights and patterns, it also implies requirement to overhaul data capture mechanisms to suit requirements to improve operational efficiency.

The erstwhile notion that data entry is a purely operational activity no more holds true as cost parameters have brought data entry into broader strategic framework. Businesses can no more sideline its strategic importance. With options available at your disposal, the decision lies with you as to what data entry approach you wish to implement for your business operations — off course against the backdrop of budget and resource constraints.

Here, in this article, we discuss at length the positives and negatives of both, manual as well as automated data entry solutions, and guide you to arrive at the right choice.

Automated vs Manual Approach in Data Entry

Here is a detailed comparison, across multiple factors, between automated and manual data entry.

A detailed comparison between automated and manual data entry

Today, data exists in a variety of forms, and to capture them in systems, you can leverage either manual or automated approach, with the former involving humans typing the values in spreadsheets or ERP UI, and the latter making use of scanning technologies like (Optical Character Recognition) OCR, (Optical Mark Recognition) OMR, (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) MICR etc.

We have tried to elaborate the strengths and weaknesses for each of the approaches:

Pros of Manual Data Entry

Manual data entry has its own advantages, and the claim that the approach is completely outdated is not true. Here are some positive aspects associated with manual data entry:

Pros of Manual Data Entry

Accuracy with sensitive data — When niche considerations and complexities must be handled, manual approach always supersedes the automated approach. Sometimes, human intervention is must, as machines cannot discern what is right and what is wrong, and in such cases, manual data entry becomes the only option to capture the data.

Easy implementation — Undoubtedly, manual data entry is easy-to-implement. You need not necessarily procure high-end software applications, only that you need to train your staff in making right use of spreadsheets. As such, small and medium businesses prefer manual data entry over automated methods.

Low cost operation — Taking the above discussed advantage forward, manual data entry doesn’t require businesses to incur heavy costs. Having even just a couple of data entry operators and computer systems suffices the need of your business, if you do not start witnessing extreme data volumes.

Employment generation — Manual data entry allows your organization to be socially more responsible, as it helps generate jobs. You can help qualified people discover means of livelihood, which also enhances your reputation.

Cons of Manual Data Entry

Despite the advantages that manual data entry offers, it collapses as data volume surges rapidly, or fast data capture becomes inevitable. Highlighted below are some disadvantages of manual data entry:

Cons of Manual Data Entry

Vulnerability — Humans need not follow set of instructions, as efficiency of each operator is not same. And so, transactions facilitated by manual data entry are always vulnerable to errors.

Speed constraints — When you need to capture millions of entries, then manual data entry is not feasible. Processing speed limitations and slow manual review procedures fails to cope with high data traffic.

Performance inconsistency — Manual data entry is subject to human mood; and working in monotonous setup, the performance of operators can degrade at any instance, something that is always challenging for management to handle.

Poor security — Despite data going through multi-checks for validation and verification, manual data entry exposes data to humans, and any wrong intention can lead to misuse or tampering of data for personal use.

Pros of Automated Data Entry

Automated data entry is fast making its way across businesses’ operations, mainly due to tremendous advantages that it offers. Here are some pros of using automated data entry:

Pros of Automated Data Entry

Speed — Automated data entry processes transactions at lightning speed. It offers a reengineered approach to processing data, and even if some data entry operators may reach very high key strokes per hour (KPH), it is never anywhere the speed that technology offers.

Accuracy with large data volumes — The accuracy of automated data capture is always high as compared to manual approach, when it comes to handling massive data volumes. Unlike manual approach, there’s no scope of speed-accuracy tradeoff with automated data capture.

Consistency — One great aspect of automated data entry is that it works consistently and streamlines the entire data entry lifecycle. While intended or unintended interruptions can affect human performance, such disruptions don’t lower efficiency of automated data capture technologies.

Robust security — Automated data capture provides strong security mechanisms which guarantee protection of your sensitive data, preventing it against leakage and misuse. In most cases, automated data capture is integrated with cloud storages, which enhances data security.

Cons of Automated Data Entry

Nothing is infallible so nor is technology-based data capture mechanism. Outlined below are some cons of automated data capture.

Cons of Automated Data Entry

High implementation cost — Yes, to implement automation you need to initiate a significant initial investment — required for procuring technology, building infrastructure, hiring/training staff etc.

Customization overhead — You need to develop customized data capture models that suit the contexts of your business/organization, which is a task that can only be executed by experts — you may even need to coordinate with third-party specialists.

Causes unemployment — Sadly, automated data capture takes away jobs of manual data operators. Even with hybrid data capture models, not as many operators are required as a completely manual procedure.

Extensive maintenance — As an organization you need to be strict in following regular schedules for maintaining technology. Again, this means requirement of dedicated resources who can effectively handle the task of ensuring machine efficiency.


Whether it is manual or automated approach to data entry, each offers you some advantages when leveraged smartly, and some disadvantages when ill-applied. However, true that analysis goes in favor of automated data entry, which is even the need of the day, if businesses really intend to keep themselves alive in the competition.

However, as of today, automated data capture mechanisms have not yet matured completely to replace manual data capture processes. Many businesses are implementing hybrid approaches, with help of data entry outsourcing companies. It combines power of technology with human intelligence — ultimately, the sole goal is to perfect your data capture processes.




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