Take the data entry challenge

Many years ago I came up with the two golden rules of data entry at one of our user group meetings and these two rules are now widely quoted in data transfer presentations both by me and others. Recently I have added a third rule to my presentations and at a seminar two weeks ago I challenged the audience of around 50 people to take the data entry challenge.

The results of the challenge were surprising both to myself and the audience.

Before I set out the challenge I’ll recap on the two original rules.

The first rule is “only enter data once”
This golden rule can be used in all aspects of your daily work and is very simple. If you enter an item of data in a system you should be able to transfer it out of that system and into another one if needed. Hence you shouldn’t need to type the data again.

If you look at any of your business processes in your company I bet this rule is broken many times each day, not just with site investigation data but for all types of information.

The second rule is “get someone else to do it”
This rule is usually seen as an attempt at humour but it is even more important than the first. Typing data into a system is expensive. Not only does it take time to enter it but there should also be considerable time taken to check that no mistakes were added during the entry process.

This second rule can be broken in a number of different ways. Firstly in the use of engineers to type up borehole logs once they have returned from site. Engineers are not the best typists in the world (generalisation I know but bear with me) and are more expensive than a data entry clerk who can touch type accurately. So by using engineers to type up logs you are using one of your most expensive resources in an inefficient way. Why not get someone else to do it?

Secondly this rule can be related back to the first rule. If that data has already been entered into a system then the “only enter data once” rule should already be in effect and the data could have been imported into the borehole logging program. If this had been done then neither the engineer or data entry clerk had to type it in resulting in significant time savings.

Once you combine the two rules in this way it is easy to see how time and money can be saved and you may be surprised at just how may times you re-enter the same data and do not pass it on. Take sample references as your example and quickly note down how many different ways these references are retyped during a job. My record with a customer is 9 times just in the production of the SI report! (I’ll list the 9 at the end of this article so you can see how you did and how many your forgot to include).

The two existing rules can be summed up with the following “Log as close to source as possible and use data transfer to move data from one application to another or between parties working on the same job”

The Third Rule and Data Entry Challenge.

The third rule is simply a different way to present the two rules already defined and it is “Only enter the data that you created”. To illustrate this rule I will use the example of sample data and laboratory results. In this example there are two companies, the client who is on site creating the samples and the laboratory that are creating results for the samples. Hopefully when the two pieces of this puzzle are fitted together they will join together easily and we will be able to determine which samples had which results recorded (this is a big subject on it’s own and I’ll write more on this in a later article on this site).

According to our 3rd rule who should enter the sample data?

The client should create the data because they created the sample, and because they already understand the first two rules they passed this data to the laboratory.

So who should enter the test results?

Not too difficult I hope. The lab should of course enter the results as they created the tests and therefore should enter the results.

So now the rules of the challenge have been laid out here is the challenge itself.

The Challenge

Laboratory – Does your lab never have to enter your client’s sample references into your system?
Client – Do you always ensure the lab has your sample references in a format they can import into their system?

If you have answered “yes” to the question most relevant to you above then you have passed the data entry challenge. Congratulations we would love to hear your comments and suggestions for others in the comment box at the bottom of this article.

If you have answered “no” to the question most relevant to you above then I’m afraid you have failed the data entry challenge. Don’t despair you are in good company but I would like to know what is stopping you in the comment box at the bottom of this article.

At the presentation I referred to at the start of this article only 1 person passed the test.

This is a big issue for the site investigation industry as a lot of time is wasted because the golden rules of data entry are broken.  I hope this article has encouraged you to take a look at your company processes and see how many places you can improve your data efficiency.

As promised I’ll end on the 9 times the sample references were written by one of my customers.
1) Driller wrote them on the rig leg, 2) driller wrote them on sample label on bag, 3) driller wrote them on sample label in bag, 4) driller wrote them up on his log sheet, 5) engineer wrote them in yellow survey book, 6) engineer wrote them up neat in the evening, 7) engineer typed into HoleBASE, 8 ) engineer typed into Excel schedule sheet for lab, 9) lab typed them into their system.


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