- - - - >  T o p i c s :
1 . How does Soft Tech System achieve high quality?
2 . When can you use OCR technology vs. manual data entry?
3 . How are prices determined?
4 . How do you receive documents and return the data?
5 . How quickly are projects completed?
6 . How do you handle any problems that occur during the project?
7 . How do we work with an offshore facility?
8 . How can we monitor project progress?
1. How does Soft Tech System achieve High Quality?

Quality means entering all of your data from source documents without errors or omissions. We achieve this with thorough planning, testing, staff training, technology, and quality assurance programs.

Planning - Good planning up front avoids poor quality at the end. Our Project Managers consult with each client to understand exactly how the data output will be used to improve your business. Then we work with you to develop project specifications, output formats, and project schedules.

The most important task is to determine exactly how you will use the output to achieve an organizational goal. This includes understanding your deadlines and project budget. We examine the source documents and determine the most effective method to extract the information. We suggest an output format (database, text file, new documents, etc.) and write clear data entry and project specifications and instructions for our staff.

Testing - Before we begin full production for any project, we perform tests to assure the final results are exactly what the customer wants. Testing usually uncovers any quality or production issues, and lets the customer see the actual output and how it can be used.

Technology - Computer software can help verify accurate data entry. We use field validation, table lookups, consistency formulas, and logic rules. Validation tables are used to assure that only acceptable data is entered. For example, one project required entering local districts in a county database. We set up a table with the acceptable district names. Data entry operators only needed to type the first few letters and the computer filled in the rest. The computer forced the correct spelling. This is a simple example. Others include checking zip code, city and state against the Postal Service database or checking medical diagnosis codes against the AMA database. If your project has a specific database of acceptable information, our software can set "validation" rules and checks.

Another validity check uses logic rules (or common sense). A social security number can only be 9 numerical characters. No more, no less. If your data is date related, we limit the possible range of dates that can be entered. Anything else is flagged to check for errors. When appropriate, we use spell checking or proofreading software (and humans).

We also use random checks of data entry accuracy, proofreading and visual inspection of output documents or databases, and data sorts with logic rules. In addition, we carefully monitor the accuracy of each staff member to improve training and reduce errors or delays.

OCR with Verification - For source documents with clear printing and consistent formats, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology provides fast, automated data extraction. We use multiple OCR products to test for the best fit with your project. In addition, the OCR software can be set to the accuracy "confidence" level you require, and trained to recognize characters that are specific to your source documents (there is an endless number of fonts, typefaces, type sizes, printer output errors, smudged output, old, faded documents, etc.). In any OCR project, operators are checking accuracy results. If OCR cannot accurately recognize at least 90% of the data, it is usually more cost effective to use double entry keying of the document .

Double Entry Keying - One proven tactic to guarantee accuracy is double keying the data. Two independent data operators type the same data. The computer compares the results and notifies the operator if the two resulting databases are different. An independent operator can then decide what the correct data is. If the source documents are illegible, we identify the problem and send the customer a list of documents they should look at to get the correct information.

Training - We constantly provide training to new and long time employees to achieve high accuracy. For the most complex projects, staff receives training to make decisions when entering data, such as identifying unique forms or searching a document to locate the correct information among possible fields or choices.

Quality Assurance - Quality means that the finished product meets your accuracy, format and deadline requirements. The data has to work in your system to give you useful information. We develop a quality assurance program for each project.

The QA system includes procedures and schedules for data entry, validation checking, random quality checks, and output delivery. The schedules are entered into a tracking system by manageable batch size. Output is checked in the China data entry facility and in our US offices before delivery.

2. When can you use OCR technology vs. manual data entry?

We can use OCR technology to capture data for many projects. OCR allows the computer to recognize characters, lines, tables, or graphs in a document instead of having a person view and type the data.

OCR works best when:

  • The printing on each document is clear with consistent separation between letters and sentences, columns in tables, surrounding graphics, etc. Also, drawings, graphics or art need to have clearly defined lines. This allows the scanner and OCR software to easily recognize each separate character of type or line of a drawing.
  • The goal is to capture all of the data on a document (full text data capture) or data is in a uniform place on a form. For example, a form with the name and address typed in the same place on each form is usually easy for an OCR engine to recognize and place that information in the correct field of the database.

With very clear type or uniform forms, OCR can often achieve accuracy rates above 95% to 97%. To get higher accuracy, we have staff members visually verify key information, or any field that is highlighted by the OCR software due to lack of "confidence" about accuracy.

For many projects, poor quality documents containing the source data does not allow OCR accuracy above 90%. In these cases we usually discover that double key data entry achieves better accuracy at a lower cost than OCR with human proofreading.

3. How are prices determined?

Data entry, indexing, file conversion, and many other document management tasks can be very labor intensive. These projects are well suited to offshore processing because of the lower labor costs available. Prices usually reflect the time required to complete each unit of a job. Factors that effect prices include:

  • The quality of the source documents
  • Output quality/accuracy requirements
  • Ability to automate the process
  • Total project volume
  • Amount of document/file preparation or handling
  • Turnaround time

Prices can vary considerably based on these factors. For example, prices for data entry from documents with very clear, typewritten source documents can be as low as US$.40 cents per 1000 keystrokes with accuracy rates above 99.5%. Often programmers can develop automated data entry techniques to reduce labor intensive tasks and hold down prices. Lower pricing is also available for high volume projects or if lower accuracy is acceptable.

If the quality of the documents is poor, has lots of handwriting, involves finding data in different parts of the document, etc., then the entry process is much slower. Prices will increase accordingly.

4. How do you receive documents and return the data?

For most projects, source documents are first scanned to tif images and saved on CD media. For small volumes or projects requiring fast turnaround, the tif images are sent via the Internet or private lines for offshore processing. For larger volumes or projects with longer timelines, CDs are sent to our offshore facilities in 72 hours via common carriers such as FedEx. Data is returned in computer file formats via email, FTP, or VPN, or sent by common carrier on CD, tape, or other media you request. We can also work online within your network; the data never leaves your location.

5. How quickly can a project be completed?

Soft Tech System currently handles daily processing for clients that require 12-24 hour turnaround. Our offshore facilities have a shift working during the nighttime in the US, so results can reach you the next business day. We have the staff and facility flexibility to start jobs with very short notice. We commonly accept "rush" projects.

Before we accept any job we work with each customer to establish project deadlines. One of our top quality goals is meeting the deadlines you need to meet your business objectives. If we cannot schedule a project within your time requirements, we will let you know up front.

6. How do you handle any problems that occur during the project?

After we begin full production, problems can (and often do) occur. The most frequent problem is that some of the source documents cannot be read accurately or do not conform to the data entry/indexing rules. Our offshore staff sends a daily progress report to our project managers in Plymouth. Part of the report is a list of problems. The UK project manager is responsible for getting answers quickly, making decisions based on prior work with the client or contacting the customer to discuss how to best resolve the problem. The goal is to answer questions quickly to keep the project on schedule.

If the source documents have some poor quality images, our staff helps you to find the problems. We keep a list of illegible images or parts of an image. The customer's staff is then able to examine the problems and supply the correct data. A second strategy is to enter a code for any illegible data. The customer can then search the database of illegible codes and make needed corrections

7. How do we work with an offshore facility?

Soft Tech System has project management offices in the UK and offshore data entry facilities in Chennai India. This gives you the advantage of local contacts for project planning and reporting, and lower cost employees for the labor-intensive work. Our UK staff handles all coordination with the offshore facilities.

In today's "virtual organizations" working offshore is not really different than working down the street. Data is transferred by the Internet or VPN. Data on paper, CDs or tape moves worldwide by post office or UPS. Meetings can be done by phone, email, netmeeting, or instant message. Many customers choose not to take time for face-to-face meetings. But, if your job requires on-site consultations, we will be there. We are flexible to work in the "office" that meets your needs.

8. How can we monitor project progress?
For each project, Soft Tech System sets up a Web based project management database. Work is tracked when sent offshore, data is entered, output is checked for quality, data is submitted to the UK office for final quality review and the output is submitted to the client. If requested we will supply you with access to the project monitoring database for your review.


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