25 June 2007

Adobe and a group of leading technology vendors, including Active Endpoints, BEA Systems, IBM, Oracle, and SAP AG, have published BPEL4People, which proposes how human interactions can be integrated in the Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WS-BPEL) 2.0, which was approved by Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) in April 2007.

BPEL4People extends the capabilities of WS-BPEL to support a broad range of human interaction patterns, allowing for more complete modeling of business processes within the BPEL language.

BPEL4People is comprised of the following two specifications:

  • WS-BPEL Extension for People layers features on top of WS-BPEL to describe human tasks as activities that may be incorporated as first class components in WS-BPEL process definitions.
  • Web Services Human Task introduces the definition of standalone human tasks, including their properties, behavior, and operations used to manipulate them. Capabilities provided by WS-HumanTask may be utilized by web services – based applications beyond WS-BPEL processes.

WS-BPEL Extension for People Specification

WS-BPEL 2.0 introduces a model for business processes based on web services. A WS-BPEL process orchestrates interactions among different web services. The language encompasses features needed to describe complex control flows, including error handling and compensation behavior. In practice, however, many business process scenarios require human interactions. A process definition should incorporate people as another type of participants, because humans may also take part in business processes and can influence the process execution.

The WS-BPEL Extension for People Specification introduces a BPEL extension to address human interactions in BPEL as a first-class citizen. It defines a new type of basic activity which uses human tasks as an implementation, and allows specifying tasks local to a process or use tasks defined outside of the process definition. This extension is based on the WS-HumanTask specification.

This specification enables portability of processes with human interactions and exploits interoperability with WS-HumanTask.

  • Portability - The ability to take design-time artifacts created in one vendor's environment and use them in another vendor's environment.
  • Interoperability - The capability for multiple components (process infrastructure, task infrastructures and task list clients) to interact using well defined messages and protocols. This enables combining components from different vendors allowing seamless execution.

Download the WS-BPEL Extension for People Specification

Web Services Human Task (WS-HumanTask) Specification

The concept of human tasks is used to specify work which has to be accomplished by people. Typically, human tasks are considered to be part of business processes. However, they can also be used to design human interactions which are invoked as services, whether as part of a process or otherwise.

The WS-HumanTask Specification introduces the definition of human tasks, including their properties, behavior, and a set of operations used to manipulate human tasks. A coordination protocol is introduced in order to control autonomy and life cycle of service-enabled human tasks in an interoperable manner.

The goal of this specification is to enable portability and interoperability:

  • Portability - The ability to take human tasks and notifications created in one vendor's environment and use them in another vendor's environment.
  • Interoperability - The capability for multiple components (task infrastructure, task list clients, and applications or processes with human interactions) to interact using well – defined messages and protocols. This enables combining components from different vendors allowing seamless execution.

Download the WS-HumanTask Specification


Why is Adobe an author of the BPEL4People specifications?

The creation and publication of these new specifications is a recognition of the importance of human interactions in real-world business processes, which lies at the heart of the Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite. Adobe is dedicated to the notion of creating rich and immersive user-experiences, delivered with our ubiquitous cross-platform runtimes and Adobe Flex rich Internet application (RIA) technology to support all modes of interaction, online and offline, in browser and on the desktop, resulting in reduced process abandonment rates, interactive customer experiences, and increased loyalty.

What do the authors plan to do with the specifications?

The authors plan to submit the specifications to OASIS in the near future and will propose a Technical Committee to produce an OASIS standard based on it. OASIS is a not-for-profit, international consortium that drives the development, convergence, and adoption of e-business standards.

What support does Adobe provide for human-based task participation?

The Adobe LiveCycle ES platform provides comprehensive support for complex, human-centric business processes and offers a global in-box for task participants called LiveCycle Workspace ES. LiveCycle Workspace ES is an intuitive Adobe Flex-based interface that you can use to initiate new processes; sort, manage, and respond to assignments; escalate, delegate, and prioritize tasks; and search for existing processes. LiveCycle Workspace ES simplifies initiating and participating in LiveCycle-based forms and processes, providing easy integration for processes spanning multiple IT systems and other business processes, both internal and external.

Does Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite support the specifications?

Support for the BPEL4People specifications is in the Adobe LiveCycle ES product roadmap. Adobe LiveCycle ES already incorporates key concepts defined within the specifications:

  • Processes modeled using LiveCycle ES Workbench incorporate human-tasks including ability to define how a task is assigned, escalated, and responds to exceptions.
  • LiveCycle Workspace ES Flex-based components to rapidly build user interfaces complaint to the WS-HumanTask specification.
  • External systems can invoke the web services for Process Management and Task Management to invoke processes and query process and task status.

Can LiveCycle ES support other vendors' implementations?

Yes, LiveCycle ES can support other implementations of the BPEL4People specifications through the use of web services. For example, LiveCycle ES can incorporate human tasks from other systems within a broader end-to-end process.

What is the relationship with other industry specifications?

Adobe participates in a number of industry initiatives (OASIS, OMG, and WFMC) to provide a set of interoperable standards in the area of business process management.
The BPEL4People specifications complement the existing standards to support a broad range of human interaction patterns that were not described in previous specifications.

Process Improvement

OMG - Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM)

Process Modeling

OMG - Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)

OMG - Business Process Definition Meta-Model (BPDM)

WFMC –XML Process Definition Language (XPDL)

Task Management


Process Execution

OASIS – Business Process Execution Language WS-BPEL 2.0

WS-BPEL Extension for People

How can Adobe Flex developers leverage the specifications?

Developers can use Flex and the BPEL4People specifications to build standards-based, rich, immersive applications that leverage a common model for human interactions, including human tasks and notifications, which simplifies the design of task-aware applications.

Where can I go to learn more about Adobe's support for human-centric BPM?

Learn more about Adobe's support for human-centric business processes.

Who should I contact for more information about BPEL4People?

For further information contact us via the Request LiveCycle Information page.