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Created: December 10, 2002.
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Workflow Management Coalition Publishes XML Process Definition Language (XPDL) Version 1.0.

The Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) has announced the release of its Workflow Standard XML Process Definition Language - XPDL 1.0. "Together with other WfMC standards, XPDL provides a framework for implementing business process management and workflow engines, and for designing, analyzing, and exchanging business processes. XPDL is the culmination of a fifteen-month effort by multiple vendors and users to provide a standard that satisfies the needs of diverse organizations. One of the key elements of the XPDL is its extensibility to handle information used by a variety of different tools. Based upon a limited number of entities that describe a workflow process definition ('Minimum Meta Model'), XPDL thus supports a number of differing approaches. The specification is intended for use by software vendors, system integrators, consultants and any other individual or organization concerned with the design, implementation, and analysis of business process management systems as well as with interoperability among workflow systems."

Bibliographic information: Workflow Process Definition Interface -- XML Process Definition Language. Edited and coordinated for the WfMC by Mike Marin (FileNET), Roberta Norin (Terrace Software), and Robert Shapiro (Cape Visions). Document Number: WFMC-TC-1025. Document Status: 1.0 Final Draft. October 25, 2002. Version 1.0. 87 pages.

From the Version 1.0 specification: " The WfMC has identified five functional interfaces to a workflow service as part of its standardization program. This specification forms part of the documentation relating to 'Interface one' - supporting Process Definition Import and Export. This interface includes a common meta-model for describing the process definition and also an XML schema for the interchange of process definitions... This document describes the meta-model, which is used to define the objects and attributes contained within a process definition. The XPDL grammar is directly related to these objects and attributes. This approach needs two operations to be provided by a vendor: (1) Import a workflow definition from XPDL; (2) Export a workflow definition from the vendor's internal representation to XPDL. A vendor can use a XSL style sheet to comply with those two operations. All keywords and terms used within this specification are based upon the WfMC Glossary. For the purpose of this document, the terms process definition, business process model, and workflow model are all considered to represent the same concept, and therefore, they are used interchangeably. ... The intended audience for this document is primarily vendor organizations who seek to implement the XML Process Definition Language (XPDL) of the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC). It may also be of interest to those seeking to assess conformance claims made by vendors for their products. Comments should be addressed to the Workflow Management Coalition."

From the announcement:

"The release of this proven XML-based specification provides organizations with a common framework," said Jon Pyke, Chair of the WfMC and CTO, Staffware Plc. "Adoption of this standard will enhance the availability, quality and timeliness of management information regardless of location and technology deployed."

Edited and coordinated on behalf of the WfMC by Mike Marin (FileNET), Roberta Norin (Terrace Software), and Robert Shapiro (Cape Visions), XPDL 1.0 offers the following features:

  • XPDL is based on the WfMC workflow reference model, a recognized workflow standard

  • It includes application integration and resource specification

  • XPDL is extendable, allowing the addition of elements and attributes as well as the import of datatypes and operations that are defined in other specifications

  • It provides a natural fit with graphical representations of business processes

  • It offers continuity with earlier versions of the specification

XPDL 1.0 uses the popular XML language to describe a business process. A process defined in XPDL (a set of XML statements) can be imported into any workflow engine that supports XPDL. The related objects and attributes (data associated with the process) are now also included in the XPDL process definition. The XPDL process definition can be generated by workflow modeling and simulation tools, or can be manually coded, or can be exported from another XPDL-compliant workflow engine.

This approach needs two operations to be provided by a vendor who can use a XSL style sheet to comply with these two operations

  • Import a workflow definition from XPDL
  • Export a workflow definition from the vendor's internal representation to XPDL

The WfMC (, founded in August 1993, is a non-profit, international organization of workflow vendors, users, analysts and university/research groups. The Coalition's mission is to promote and develop the use of workflow through the establishment of standards for software terminology, interoperability and connectivity between workflow products. Consisting of over 300 members, spread throughout the world, the Coalition has become established as the primary standards body for the rapidly expanding business process management market.

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