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Two Heads are better than 10

by David Wisor

May 27, 2010

In this post, I’ll be talking about doing more with less, so in keeping with that motto, less intro.

You may recall from my last post, I made a recommendation about using fewer employees for data entry. Specifically, I said:

Less employees doing data entry-Fewer employees means fewer people to communicate changes to, fewer people to talk to when there has been a mistake, and fewer people getting more practice. In other words, if your organization is handling 100 garnishments a year, 2 people doing 50 each will learn the process better than 10 people doing 10 each.

So, what does that mean for my employer? It means two employees working ½ day each, on average, on data entry, and the rest of the day working on other tasks. A little more as we approach a Payroll, and a little less as we leave a Payroll behind. All of our employees are paid on the same bi-weekly payroll cycle, so the data entry people are heads down, fingers on keyboard, busiest on Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday, where the pay date is the following Friday. They certainly are not killing time the rest of the two week period, but the data does come in at a much more manageable pace.

“Two heads are better than one” is a familiar saying. For us, this saying holds true and seems to be our magic number. The two data entry people mean that we have a backup in case of a “hit”-someone hits the lottery, gets hit by a bus, or decides to hit the bricks. It’s also an easy number to manage when it comes to making changes. We recently incorporated a company that we acquired into HR and Payroll. (I promise to talk about that in another blog post).  Although the data entry team was not directly involved in most of the implementation, when it came time to share information, it was easy to get both of them in the same room and discuss it. If for some reason, they weren’t both available, there was never a struggle to talk through the same point twice.

We didn’t always have things so well in hand. When we went live, at least 10 people were involved in data entry. As we watched “Go Live” get smaller and smaller in our rear view mirror, we continued to struggle with the some of the same problems regarding data entry-misunderstandings about things like Start and End Dates , the differences between Main and Other Bank, and how to set up the tax Infotypes.

The process became a frustrating one. After finding an error in data entry by one employee, I’d spend the time to craft a detailed email, explaining how to properly complete an entry for a specific Infotype and send it out to all the other data entry people. It seemed to never fail that within the next few days, someone else would have the same mistake. I actually felt a little better when an honest voice told me why they had repeated the same mistake-they hadn’t read my email.

This left me no choice but to attempt to contact each of them directly, which had its own difficulties-sometimes it would take hours to go through the phone calls to discuss what happened, and why, and how each data entry person had a part in making it better. This was often coupled with a problem that was less frequent, and when they had their chance to do it correctly, they’d have forgotten that we’d even talked.

That of course, only covers the primary data entry team, however, when you are handling your data entry remotely at each location, each person needs a local backup, and that local backup needed to keep track of these issues for weeks at a time without spending time in SAP. Add it all up, and it was confusing, and quite honestly, frustrating for everyone involved.

I don’t want to come across as being too negative. They were doing their best, but it was a struggle none the less. We realized we could be much better by consolidating, and that’s what we did. It turned out that we had a person in our Payroll Department whose position was going to be eliminated. She liked data entry, and was the person who did data entry frequently for Payroll in our legacy Payroll system. Most importantly, she had a fiery desire for accurate data. We gradually moved more and more of the data entry away from our local HR departments and moved it to our Corporate data entry team of one.

It really was a team of one, she had a backup when she went on vacation, but aside from that, within a year of her taking that position, no one else did any data entry when she was working. When she moved on to “bigger and better things”, we realized we needed to do a better job of succession planning, so the position was split, and we ended up where we are today.

That’s a brief overview of how we got to where we are today with data entry. In my next blog entry, I’ll be discussing specifically how the process of centralized data entry works for my company and some of the challenges with our new data entry process.

David “Bud” Wisor, Mannington Mills

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