It would be hard to argue against the notion that almost every kind of business today is data-driven. Without the information you need to run your company — be it financial metrics, marketing demographics or productivity measures — you’d probably fall behind the competition, and fast.
For this very reason, “data capture” has become a critical yet often overlooked capability of most companies. Improving in data capture solutions can lead to fewer costly mistakes and quicker reaction times to business opportunities.
Simply put, data capture is the process of extracting information from a physical source and converting it into a digital format. Digitization allows you to store, organize, search, retrieve and share information quickly, if not in real time.
For decades, measuring productivity and tracking costs related to the delivery of products or services in many industries was a tedious, manual and error-ridden task. Pitfalls included double entries, lost or misfiled paperwork, and misinformation attributable to illegible handwriting.
Fortunately, much of today’s business information has been digitized already in the form of spreadsheets, electronic documents, PDFs, forms and templates, emails, and so forth. Today’s internet-connected mobile apps also make it quick and easy to collect information.
In fact, you can choose from many solutions that automate data capture. Bar codes and QR codes, for example, help companies manage inventory and equipment usage — especially if you can scan them with a smartphone. Another example is signature capture technology, which enables electronic signatures to authorize and track contracts and other approvals.
Meanwhile, cloud-based solutions allow remote users to view documents, drawings, plans and specifications. Smartphones can take pictures and video, which can be quickly uploaded to project management websites or team communication platforms. It’s all data capture. The question is: How can your business get better at it?
When it comes to data capture, what works for one company might not work for another. First, identify your mission-critical data and where it comes from. Pertinent documents may include employee timecards or worklogs, sales reports, marketing studies, financial statements and other financial reporting.
Next, train and equip the appropriate team members to optimally capture data. As mentioned, the right software and mobile apps can enable your employees to grab data as it’s generated, record the information and share it. But be careful not to “silo” data; that is, make it accessible only to a few people. Doing so can inadvertently create bottlenecks that lead to miscommunication and bad decisions.
At the same time, you must secure your data so hackers and unauthorized users can’t corrupt, kidnap or steal it. Data capture and cybersecurity should go hand in hand.
The good news about data capture is that, more than likely, your business is already doing it. The trick is recognizing the importance of this tech-related task, getting your employees on board and continuously improving at it. We’d be happy to help you assess your company’s technology costs and look for ways to improve your return on investment.