Manual methods of data processing

By The End Of The SuBtopic, Learners Should Be Able To;
  1. Explain manual data processing.
  2. Compare manual and mechanical methods of data processing.
  3. Explain the advantage and disadvantages of manual data processing.


  • Accounting data can also be manually processed. In some instances manual and electronic methods are combined at different stages when processing business information.

Manual data processing

  • A manual data system requires that a data capture clerk enters transactions from job cards, source documents and other sources on to subsidiary books (Cash book and journals) and post to the ledgers by hand.
  • A bookkeeper proceeds to record the information into the books of accounts.
  • Then an accountant goes on to prepare final accounts and management reports from the ledgers.
  • This process is accomplished by either using paper journals or ledger sheets or by using spreadsheets such as Excel.
  • The procedure is considered manual because the entire process involves lots of human presence and intelligence.
Mechanical data processing
  • A mechanical data processing or computerised accounting system permits the user to enter transactions into some computer program and everything else is virtually processed.
  • A computerised system captures transactions electronically or through manual methods and the processing of subsidiary books, ledgers and final accounts is executed by some accounting software.
  • There is some limited involvement of human effort in a computerised accounting system. Hence, it is the best of both worlds.

Comparison of manual and mechanical methods of data processing

Manual data processing Mechanical data processing
  • Limited use of computer hardware.
  • High use of computer hardware.
  • Limited use of accounting software.
  • Uses accounting software.
  • High use of human labour.
  • High use of computing technology.
  • High labour costs.
  • Low labour costs.
  • Low capital investment.
  • High capital investment.
  • Slow data processing.
  • Fast data processing.
  • Very little computer skills required.
  • High technical/computer skills required.
  • Lots of paper work.
  • Very little paper work.


  • Not very expensive to administer.
  • Too much paperwork involved.
  • Creates more jobs.
  • Difficult to locate and correct errors.
  • No virus or data loss threats.
  • Many departments may be needed /involved.
  • Errors can be traced to specific individuals.
  • Slow to get information or reports.
  • Job involvement and satisfaction.
  • Affected by strikes or employee activism.
  • Processes can be stopped and reversed when necessary.
  • Personality clashes may affect production.
  • Paper work provides immediate backup.
  • Fires can destroy all information if there is no off- site storage.


  • Mechanical data processing systems may be good if the benefits justify the costs.
  • Computerisation can be applied either in small or big enterprises alike.
  • The business may choose to automate part or all of its business operations.
  • Careful planning is needed when migrating from a manual system to a computerised accounting system.