Re-keying data is never acceptable

One of my data management commandments is that data should never have to be re-keyed. That is, once data has been entered into a system (e.g., the customer has completed a form online, or staff has entered data into a spreadsheet), that data should never have to be re-keyed again. Once data is in electronic form, it shouldn’t need to be re-keyed. I call this re-keying “data entry redundancy.”

But too often I find data entry redundancy in the associations I work with, and it is especially common in the accounting function. Over the years I’ve worked with several associations where key financial data was entered into the AMS, then exported into a spreadsheet, only to be re-keyed into the financial management software. The reasons for why this was happening are not as important as the reasons why this is a bad practice. Here are three reasons why data entry redundancy is very bad practice.

  1. It’s redundant work, which by definition means it’s inefficient. In other words, it’s taking you more time than it should to manage the data because it’s being entered more than once. That means it’s costing you money.
  2. It increases the opportunity for error. Every time data is entered there is the chance that it will be entered incorrectly. So re-keying data, by definition, doubles your chances of data being entered incorrectly. (And in some cases I’ve seen same the data being entered three separate times!)
  3. It’s an audit trail nightmare. As every finance department knows, during an audit, backup work for any transaction can be requested by the auditors. When the same data is being entered multiple times, tracking that data back its source becomes exceedingly difficult.

In my experience, most often data is being re-keyed because no one has taken the time to figure out how to automate the data collection or data transfer process. For example, for the vast majority of AMS systems, financial data coming out of the AMS can be exported into a spreadsheet that can be imported into the most common financial management software systems.

So look around your organization. Is data being keyed more than once? If so, you need to figure out how to make eliminate that data entry redundancy.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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