Thursday Feb 07, 2008

BPEL4People and WS Human Task submitted to OASIS

If you've used BPEL in anger, you know that it has limitations. One of the major ones that I've encountered is the lack of work flow support. Real business processes often involve human actions, and humans don't really look like web services! Also, web services don't perform roles in the same way humans do; there is no question about assigning a work item to a web service, whereas work item assignment for people can involve some complex considerations, including organizational structures.

BPEL4People and WS-Human Task are a pair of specifications that have recently submitted to OASIS for standardization. These important standards address many of the work flow-related problems related to using WS-BPEL, providing a standard way of modeling and executing business processes that include so-called human tasks.

One of my first comments to the WS-BPEL TC, when I joined it way back in 2003, was that BPEL needed to accommodate assignment of work items to humans. Unfortunately this was dismissed as "out of scope" (and that is probably a good thing, or the TC would still be active today!). I am gratified that other participants in the BPEL community realized that this was a real problem, and I'm grateful today to join them in submitting these two new specifications for standardization.

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