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Some of us have been around long enough to remember what it was like to need a bottle of white-out next to our typewriter, or even remember what life was like before the smartphone. So it’s reasonable to understand that some of us are stuck in the “this is how it’s always been done” mindset of manual tasks at work. Just like white-out is a thing of the past and my old Nokia brick is now a fond and very distant memory, manual data entry also needs to be wiped out of our norm of day-to-day work.
A product marketer’s wrestle with data entry
As a product marketer, part of my job is to dig into various types of data to help shape strategy and to tell stories. An example of one of the most frustrating tasks is trying to compile information from Salesforce. Now don’t get me wrong — Salesforce is an incredibly powerful tool — but it requires a lot of work from Sales Operations and Revenue Operations to get it humming. And what’s equally important is the participation and buy-in from the sales team at large to input the critical information that’s needed to make the most accurate analyses and best decisions that move the needle forward for our company and provide the best service for our customers.
So when I’m trying to perform a search for the average cost per license for a year in the past, or want to know what the average sales discount looks like, it can be a nightmare. Most sales companies don’t enter this data into a field within Salesforce (if your team does, big congrats!), so the only option I’m typically left with is to download each individual PDF of a purchase order or contract, and manually hunt down data that I need. It was a tedious and painful system that wasn't a great use of my time or skills.
This process required me to type each figure into a spreadsheet along with the customer name and anything else that might be important. Sometimes, I’d realize about halfway through that I’ve forgotten a key bit of information and I have to go back to start.
On average, this exercise would take me anywhere from two to eight hours to complete, depending on the timeframe of data that I was looking into. This is just one example of manual data extraction in the never-ending list of to-do’s that we all have piling up on our desks.
Automation is the light at the end of the tunnel
Before joining Impira, I tried to build new enforcement processes to ensure that the sales reps were inputting data into Salesforce. This didn’t go over very well, so I eventually abandoned the notion that this tedious process could be optimized and embraced my fate of sifting through PDFs. Data processing and form management would simply take as long as it took. In my early conversations with Ankur Goyal, Impira’s CEO, it quickly became clear that Impira is the platform that would actually solve this specific problem.
Impira automatically pulls important data from PDF documents like invoices and purchase orders and organizes that information into a format that other systems can understand. Need to extract a few figures from an invoice and send them to Quickbooks? Impira’s got you covered. Want to pull numbers and addresses from thousands of purchase orders at once? Done.
After joining the team here at Impira (and coming to my senses), I wanted to dig into just how much time an average employee spends doing manual data entry like I was doing for the last 11 years. Did you know that the average employee estimates that they spend two hours every day doing manual data entry? That adds up to 14 hours per week, and if we estimate that we each work about 250 days per year. That’s a whopping 300 hours per year spent just typing data.
I think back to pre-Impira days and I wonder what I might have accomplished in those 300 hours each year. I think about many more pieces of research I could've completed and how many new products would have had a better launch. Pure productivity gains aside, I would have been able to put down the burden of data entry to focus more of my time and energy on efforts that would benefit both my team and my organization.
Automation can be a tool to improve everyday work life
The world of automation can seem daunting and unsettling for many companies and their employees. Even without the quantitative data, I can imagine the number of articles out there that speak on the topic of robots taking human jobs, or about how many small to medium sized businesses are being left behind with sweeping digital transformation trends across industries. What if our embrace of automation instead let computers do what computers are good at, then freed people from data entry jobs so they could do work that has more meaning and leads to greater impact on company development? What if automation became a trusted business partner that ensured your figures were correct and unbiased?
This is the type of automation that could incur positive change for both employees and organizations. Automation could control bad data by reducing human error, and let your knowledge workers actually exercise their knowledge and create opportunities to be innovative. The right automation software would allow you to take advantage of this technology without requiring you to have data science professionals or people with coding skills in your employ.
No-code automation is for you, me, and everyone
In this past blog post, we briefly outlined four different Impira users: An insurance agent, a salesperson, a medical professional, and a financial advisor. None of these people are coders, nor do they have any extensive data science experience, yet they drive their own automation processes via Impira so they no longer need to sit and manually chew through data every day.
Impira makes machine learning accessible and available to business users of all backgrounds and skill levels through the implementation of automated machine learning (AutoML). AutoML helps level the playing field so organizations that may not have the resources and personnel to build out their own machine learning solutions can still benefit from the power of automation. Impira is also continually adding to its growing list of integrations so you can easily slip Impira into your existing set of tools. With Impira, you can be free to make leaps and bounds in productivity without the same cost and time investment as traditional machine learning software.
Megan Dorcey is a B2B product marketer with 11 years of experience working with companies like Stack Overflow and Spiceworks.