BPEL4People is an extension of Business Process Execution Language 2.0, an executable modeling language used to define business processes comprised of Web service operations. Other vendors involved in the publication of BPEL4People include Active Endpoints, Adobe, and BEA Systems.
Critics have said that BPEL's weakness stemmed from the fact that it did not incorporate workflow, an important element within a business process. As a result, vendors of business process management systems built their own non-standard workflow engines.
BPEL4People is an attempt to correct that shortcoming, so processes that require the participation of people to perform tasks, review or approve steps, and enter data can be defined with BPEL. An example of such a business process would include a credit approval scenario in which a human OK is needed on certain transaction limits or activity levels.
The latest spec is comprised of two specifications. The first is BPEL Extension for People, which layers features on top of BPEL to describe human tasks as activities that may be incorporated as first-class components in BPEL process definitions.
The second is Web Services Human Task, which introduces the definition of stand-alone human tasks, including the properties, behavior and operations used to manipulate them. Capabilities provided by the spec may be utilized by Web services-based applications beyond BPEL processes.
BPEL4People is expected to be submitted to the international standards body OASIS in the near future. OASIS, which stands for Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, is instrumental in the adoption of e-business standards.