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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Workflow Resource Patterns as a Tool to Support OASIS BPEL4People

OASIS [recently] announced the formation of the WS-BPEL Extension for
People (BPEL4People) Technical Committee... As part of the standardization
process, these proposals are still open to comment in order to ensure
that they meet with general acceptance before being finalized as
standards. However, one of the difficulties with evaluating new
standards initiatives is in finding a suitable conceptual basis against
which their capabilities can be examined and benchmarked. In order to
assist with this activity, this paper proposes the use of the workflow
resource patterns, as a means of evaluating the BPEL4People and
WS-HumanTask proposals. The resource patterns provide a comprehensive
description of the various factors that are relevant to human resource
management and work distribution in business processes. They offer a
means of examining the capabilities of the two proposals from a conceptual
standpoint in a way that is independent of specific technological and
implementation considerations. Through this examination, we hope to
determine where the strengths and weaknesses of these proposals lie and
what opportunities there may be for further improvement. The resource
patterns were developed as part of the Workflow Patterns Initiative,
an ongoing research project that was conceived with the goal of
identifying the core architectural constructs inherent in workflow
technology. The original objective was to delineate the fundamental
requirements that arise during business process modeling on a recurring
basis and describe them in an imperative way. A patterns-based approach
was taken to describe these requirements as it offered both a
language-independent and technology-independent means of expressing
their core characteristics in a form that was sufficiently generic to
allow for its application to a wide variety of offerings. To date, 126
patterns have been identified in the control-flow, data, and resource,
perspectives, and they have been used for a wide variety of purposes,
including evaluation of PAISs, tool selection, process design, education,
and training. The workflow patterns have been enthusiastically received
by both industry practitioners and academics alike. The original
Workflow Patterns paper has been cited by over 150 academic publications,
and the workflow patterns website has been visited more than 100,000
times... We examine the intention and coverage provided by the BPEL4People
and WSHumanTask proposals from various perspectives, starting with their
intention and relationship with related proposals and standards and then
examining their informational and state-based characteristics on a
comparative basis against those described by the workflow resource
patterns... We hope that the observations and recommendations [...] will
assist the OASIS BPEL4People standardization efforts. We are convinced
that an analytical approach based on the workflow/resource patterns can
aid discussions and remove ambiguities...

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