What Is a Data-Processing Cycle?

Data-processing cycle refers to the process of transforming raw data into useful information. The cycle entails a process of sequential steps, including input, processing, output and interpretation. Preparation, feedback and storage often are included steps of the cycle.

Modern data processing usually is assumed to involve one or more computer systems, with the majority of the processing taking place within a software application.

Collection of the raw data occurs during the input phase of the data-processing cycle. This data could be census details or sales figures, for example. At this point, some cycles require the data undergo preparation for the next stage. Often, raw data requires verification of accuracy or transformation into another format prior to processing. Once the data is collected and input into the computer system, the processing stage of the cycle occurs. In this stage, the data is manipulated according to parameters programmed into the application. Processing generates output to the user. This output could be results displayed on the monitor or a printout, for example. Next, the user interprets the information. The cycle could end at this point, but many organizations incorporate two additional stages in the process: feedback, during which the output is compared with the desired results in order to improve the data-processing cycle for the future, and storage, during which the raw data is archived electronically or in physical form for future reference if needed.