XML business-process model ready for release

The Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI), a group recently formed to define a standard way to model business processes, is prepared to release the first draft of specs for BPML (Business Process Modeling Language), an XML (extensible markup language) schema that is the first step toward the group's goal.

The specification will be released Friday when representatives of the 80-member BPMI meet in Las Vegas for the organization's third meeting, said Howard Smith, CTO of Computer Sciences Corp.'s (CSC) European business. Smith, one of the leaders of the BPMI, briefed reporters on Wednesday during the Global Internet Summit 2001, an annual international gathering in Northern Virginia.

The goal of creating a common language of business processes is considered a critical step in creating the next generation of collaborative business models and a logical next step beyond data integration. BPML aims to provide a standard way to represent end-to-end business processes, allowing direct deployment, management and transformation of these processes among multiple business partners and among multiple enterprise applications.

"This is an innovation which is long overdue and has been long looked for," Smith said. "BPML represents the next generation of systems and enterprise integration, and will do for process management what standards such as SQL and XML have achieved in the for data management."

The standard is a model of the business process, not a model of the data, Smith explained, allowing business partners an opportunity to have a dialog on common ground about business processes, which currently are embedded in the applications that perform them. BPML allows these processes to be managed outside the applications, which potentially will foster increased collaboration and innovation between enterprises, Smith said.

In addition, BPML is designed to bridge the gap between legacy IT infrastructures and emerging business-to-business collaboration protocols such as RosettaNet, BizTalk, and ebXML (electronic business XML). While those protocols are concerned with the interface between two companies, BPML deals with the higher-level objectives -- the boardroom decisions -- that move the business forward, Smith said.

BPML is aimed at guaranteeing the consistency of a business process throughout its life cycle, allowing managers and technicians to share in the design, deployment and improvement of the business process. It has the potential to expand electronic marketplaces by taking them beyond simple buy-sell transactions.

As a large systems integrator, CSC's involvement in the BPMI was logical because the company already charts best practices in its consulting business and because BPML could potentially speed up the systems integration process. CSC was one of the founding members of the BPMI, which is expected to announce a board of directors soon, Smith said. Among the other companies involved in the BPMI are vendors that do enterprise application integration, which have been adding business process tools to their services for some time, Smith said.

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