XML-Based Process Management Standard
XML-Based Process Management Standard launched by Workflow Management Coalition - "Wf-XML".
Move Provides Process Control for Inter-Enterprise Applications - Key Enabler for Business to Business e-Commerce.
Dublin. July 02, 1999.
At its latest quarterly meeting, the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) launched a major initiative to provide XML-based workflow standards.
Work has been underway since early 1999 and a draft specification is now available for industry comment. The specification builds on the foundation of WfMC's earlier work, providing an evolution of the existing workflow standards into XML-based exchanges between workflow systems.
The WfMC initiative has brought together the work originated in the OMG jointFlow submission and the initial proposals from the IETF sponsored SWAP (Simple Workflow Access Protocol) group. Wf-XML is an XML-based variant of the WfMC Interoperability Interface which can work with HTTP or a number of other transport mechanisms, including email and direct TCP/IP connection, or MOM (Message Oriented Middleware).
The specification - currently at alpha level - includes a definition of the basic DTDs defining the XML encoding of workflow messages to support interoperability. This will be extended to include workflow operations from the other WfMC interfaces, to form a complete XML-based specification for all workflow functions.
As part of this work, the interoperability specification has been implemented as a prototype on two different workflow systems and has been successfully tested in interoperability proving. Over the next few months, the WfMC will refine and release the WF-XML specification as a full standard and will continue to invite input and comment from other industry groups including the IETF and W3C.
[PDF graphic: Wf-XML - Business Process Description - Process Control Data XML/EDI - Application Data XML Data Representation Organisation B Organisation A]
Wf-XML complements work being done by other XML groups (e.g., XML/EDI) in defining their own industry data definitions in XML format. These XML data definitions focus on how the business data is structured. For example, how to describe an automobile: the make; model; trim; mileage.
Here, workflow systems provide the end to end business process control, in our example, from the initial request for a price quotation on a car, all the way through to its delivery to the customer.
Different organisations may be involved in the various stages of the process, each potentially using different workflow systems - hence the need for the interoperability standards from the WfMC.
Wf-XML provides the process flow instructions, in XML format. Business data associated with an inter-organisational process would be passed as attachments in XML form. Wf-XML will provide organisations with an easy-to-implement way of automating business processes. Clearly, inter-organisational business processes have a heavy dependence on widely-accepted and viable standards for their successful deployment.
One of the major benefits of XML in this respect is that it is a simple - and very open - standard which is ideally suited for the development of web based e-Commerce. This is seen as a key area for WfMC, with the standard being a logical extension to its earlier work on MIME and CORBA bindings for the inter-operation of workflow systems.
"In the integration of XML with the WfMC," continues Richardson, " the document paradigm meets e-Commerce, and consigns EDI to the history books. This initiative will provide the opportunity to build applications faster and to make information interchange a safe choice for users."
The Wf-XML specification will be made available to interested parties for comment. Those interested should visit the WfMC web site at www.wfmc.org and complete the request form, or send an e-mail to email@example.com
Comments will be reviewed and appropriate action taken in time for a revised version to be submitted to the next WfMC meeting in Tokyo in December for ratification.
Notes to Editors
The Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC), founded in August 1993, is a non-profit, international organisation 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 200 members globally, the Coalition has quickly become established as the primary standards body for this rapidly expanding software market. In recognition of this, the WfMC has benefited from the support of AIIM International, the industry leader in IT standards.
The Coalition has developed a framework for the establishment of workflow standards. This framework includes five categories of interoperability and communication standards that will allow multiple workflow products to coexist and interoperate within a user's environment. Technical details are included in a White Paper "The Work of the Coalition".
The Coalition is divided into three major committees: the Technical Committee; the External Relations Committee; and the Steering Committee. Small working groups exist within each committee for the purpose of defining workflow terminology, interoperability and connectivity standards, conformance requirements, and for assisting in the communication of this information to the workflow user community.
The Coalition's major committees normally meet four times per calendar year for three days at a time, with meetings usually alternating between a North American and a European location. The working group meetings are held during these three days and as necessary throughout the year. Coalition membership is open to all interested parties involved in the creation, analysis or deployment of workflow software systems. Membership is governed by a Document of Understanding, which outlines meeting regulations, voting rights and other matters.
Tel: + 44 (0) 1962 873403
Melanie Pearce/Graham Noakes
Tel: + 44 (0) 1252 727313
Prepared by Robin Cover for the The SGML/XML Web Page archive.