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Data Processing:

In a nutshell...
Data Processing describes actions on data with little, if any, user interaction. This is in contrast to an application which is designed to have interaction with a user all the time.

As an example: A few years ago I was contracted to provide a system that would generate insurance quotes for customers. On a monthly basis data was:

• Exported and picked up from a mainframe computer.
• Had over fifty different operations performed on each record.
• Sliced and diced records according to different demographic marketing strategies.
• Forwarded to mailing houses for printing and delivery.

95% of this operation was done with no user input and no GUI.

Tell me more...

When deciding what type of system you need, it helps to be clear what the system is to achieve. You don't want to build an application when all you need is a processing system.

Even if the processing requires occasional input from a user, it's usually more cost effective to train someone how to perform that task than to create a full blown application just so a user can tweak a few parts of the process.

Anything else?

The other thing to consider about processing systems is that they are usually linear in their execution. For example, the process will start at point A and once complete, will move to task B, then task C etc, until the whole process is complete.

This is in contrast to an application. With an application, a user might start at point A and is maybe then required to move to point D (missing out B & C) to complete a different part of the process.

Making the distinction in your requirements between a processing system and an application allows you to focus on your requirements from the correct perspective.

Processing systems are also usually easier to build than applications because they are linear (A, B then C etc) in their execution. This simplifies the design and the actual building of the system. It also means you dont have to consider user interaction which is a big expense in terms of time to accomodate user functionality.

Linear processing also allows you to make changes very simply. For example, lets say at 'step 27', a price value needed to be changed to include a discount, this would be very easy to change without affecting the rest of the steps in the process.

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