Mixing numbers up in everyday life – such as dialing the wrong phone number – may cause nothing more than a minor disruption. In business, however, entering the wrong sequence of digits can lead to serious, even disastrous consequences.
The technical term for accidentally switching the order of numbers (ie. entering “$4200” when the actual figure is “$2400”) is a transposition error. A simple typo of this sort can lead to a loss of time, money and resources. In certain industries, these typos can even affect the safety and well-being of customers, patients and others.
Fortunately, the right combination of tools and processes makes it easy to catch transposition errors before it’s too late.
An Example of Transposition Error
Take for example the figures mentioned in the intro. A bookkeeper at a company enters $2400 for a purchase when the actual figure stands at $4200. This bookkeeper has years of experience and an exceptional eye for detail.
However, on one particular day, they feel overwhelmed with work and fatigued from a long week. Despite their credentials and skills, extenuating factors has got the best of them.
The incorrect data gets processed without any other staff members noticing. Weeks later, a review of inventory reveals a gap between the stated expenses on record. Only then does it become clear that incorrect data has been entered.
The Danger of Transcription Errors in High-Risk Industries
As mentioned in the intro, data transposition errors (a.k.a “fat finger moments”) can lead to more treacherous consequences in high-risk industries.
For example, in 2014, a Japanese stock trader accidentally ordered 40 share orders worth $617 billion. Fortunately, the order was flagged and cancelled. However, one can only speculate the damage that would have ensued had the order gone through.
Some transposition errors can even lead to fatal results. In 1992, 96 people onboard Air Inter Flight 148 died when it crashed into a mountain due to a transposition error. In this tragic case, the crew set the aircraft to descend at 3,300 feet per minute instead of the 3.3 degree angle they meant to enter.
In the medical world, inputting the wrong data can also lead to life-threatening situations. This is certainly applicable when prescribing drug dosages to patients with serious health conditions.
You may never face such dire consequences within your organization. Nevertheless, transposition errors can lead to a never-ending list of problems that are difficult to correct.
Common Consequences of Transposition Errors in Business
- Inconsistent and inaccurate financial records
- Incorrect information on tax forms and shareholder reports
- Unintentionally misleading promotional offers and incentives
- False perception of engaging in fraudulent activities
- Negative publicity from local, national or international news media
- Tarnished brand image and reputation
Detect Transposition Errors Quickly With These Strategies
The good news about transposition errors is that business owners and staff can find them before the numbers get processed. They can accomplish this with a combination of various bookkeeping methods, personal methods and digital technology
Transposition Error Finding Tactics & Techniques
- Mind your units – Know beforehand how you plan to format your numbers. Inconsistent formatting can lead to incorrectly arranged numbers.
- Verbalize entry – An age-old trick writers rely on, reading your work aloud (numbers in this case) can draw attention to errors unseen by the eye.
- Manage stress & fatigue – Feeling tired and anxious can reduce attention and visual abilities, making it easy to make these errors. Managing these feelings and sensations can, therefore, help reduce the occurrence of these mistakes.
- Remember muscle memory can fail – Repeatedly entering the same information can lead one into thinking that they are adding the correct digits every time. Unfortunately, the brain can trick the eyes. Keep this in mind and always remember to double check your work.
Digital Technology for Transposition Accuracy
- Use of cloud-based analytic software – Analytics software that uses specific algorithms will spot data entry errors that human eyes don’t see. The GLAnalytics software provides this support with its unique set of algorithms, helping businesses of all sizes spot data entry errors in financial data which can cause problems for years to come.
Help Keep Your Organization Free of Transposition Errors
The seemingly minor act of reversing numbers or putting decimal points where commas belong go far beyond the page (or screen). In some industries, these errors can threaten lives. For the majority of businesses, these mistakes can cause a ripple effect in terms of data integrity and accuracy. These compromises can lead to a major of loss of funds and worse, trust among customers or stakeholders.
It’s important to take a proactive approach to spotting these errors. Simple bookkeeping methods and personal reminders can help but the most effective way to detect these errors is with cloud-based data analytics. GLAnalytics is a leading provider of error detection software that will improve the integrity of your financial data, improve processes and save you money.