Conditional processing for dummies

As you explore the world of automation, you may come across the term ‘conditional processing’.

For some, the term might seem self-explanatory. For others, it’s a little less clear.

The problem is, most explanations of conditional processing go deep into the code behind it. But that’s not so helpful for the non-programmers among us.  

So, here is a quick and easy overview of conditional processing.

What is conditional processing?

Conditional processing is where a computer behaves differently based on the properties of the data it is fed. It does this by analysing the data against a series of pre-set conditions.

Essentially, conditional processing allows programs to adapt to different data input. This reduces the need for human intervention when it comes to data handling, and enables the system to run the relevant processing action autonomously.


  • A programmer specifies a set of conditions
  • Then, they tell the computer what to do if those conditions are (or are not) met by the incoming data

That’s conditional processing.

How does it work?

Conditional processing works by using conditional statements. These are sometimes referred to as an ‘if-check’ or as ‘if statements’.

The programmer sets out a list of true or false statements starting with ‘if’. These form the conditions of the conditional processing.

Then, the computer will analyse any input and determine whether these conditions are met or not. (That is, it determines whether the statement is true or false in the given instance.)

The programmer will also have told the application what to do if the condition is or isn’t met. So:

  • If the statement is true, the computer will follow one set of predetermined instructions
  • If the statement is false, the computer will follow a different set of predetermined instructions

These conditions can link to each other. So, for instance, if statement A is false, the computer might check if statement B is true in response.

In this way, conditional processing allows you to filter data input through multiple conditions.

When is it used?

Conditional processing is a core part of an effective and flexible rule-based system. For example, automation software.

For business process automation to work effectively, it can’t just process every piece of data in precisely the same way. It needs to change its behaviour based on the information it parses. So, it relies on conditional processing.

It’s through conditional processing that automation software can work out what to do with incoming information. For instance, using conditions allows automation software to identify which incoming emails it needs to extract data from, and which database to store that data in. 

And that’s just one example.

The point is, conditional processing allows automation to mimic human intelligence. It gives the software a set of guidelines to analyse incoming data against, empowering it to determine which automated action applies in each unique situation.

See it at work

If you want to see conditional processing at work, then why not take a hands-on approach? Set up your own conditions, with a 30-day free trial of ThinkAutomation.

Further reading