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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

BPEl4People: BPM Edges Closer to the People Who Drive the Business

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The wait is over. Now, the wait can begin.

There is a standard known as Web Services Business Process Execution Language, or WS-BPEL. It's promulgated by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information (OASIS), a broadly supported and widely respected international consortium. WS-BPEL is now at version 2.0. It's very good at providing a framework for orchestrating so-called "composite applications," ideally composed from multiple already-written applications or application elements. WS-BPEL is not very good at providing a framework for human workflows - and those human workflows often have significant, yet difficult-to-predict effects on business processes, as well as application and services workflows.

After a bunch of work for a bunch of time, there is now BPEL4People, a Web Services specification that describes ways to model human workflows. Initial supporting vendors include Active Endpoints (provider of BPEL support tools for SOA developers and architects), Adobe Systems, Inc., BEA Systems, Inc., IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., and SAP AG.

An element of BPEL4People, Web Services Human Task, intends to depict human actions as activities that can be "consumed" by applications and services. This could, then, bridge and significantly narrow the gap between service-oriented architectures (SOAs) and the humans attempting to use the services to do work that makes the business go.

BPEL4People, in essence, intends to help integrate the management of processes that describe and govern the behavior of applications, services, and systems with that of those processes that describe and govern human behaviors. For those of us who have been yammering about and clamoring for human-centric BPM - or "business knowledge management," or "people process management," or whatever you want to call it - this is great news.

But it is only a beginning. Because now, the vendors supporting BPEL4People have to do three things, and they have to do them quickly, transparently, and well. First, they have to attract more vendor support and endorsement of the specification, especially among their software-developing partners. Second, they have to deliver products that make real the promise of the specification. Third, they have to get the specification transmogrified by OASIS into a formal industry standard. Preferably before too many "early implementations" and "enhancements" make interoperability too slippery a slope for too many prospective developers and users.

You can read more about BPEL4People here at ebizQ, and in the Oracle news release. You might then want to contact your top three incumbent and/or prospective IT and BPM solution providers, and find out their plans for support of BPEL4People. I intend to do some of that myself. Let me know what you find out, and I'll share and compare findings in future outings here. Could be good; it's just a question of when, and how good...

1 Comment

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Michael, you may be interested to read my views on BPEL4People and human interactions - especially since I quote an earlier post of yours :-)
All the best

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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