Swim Lane Flow Chart

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Swim Lane Flow Chart - short version

Displays the steps of a process and shows functional ownership for each one.

Swim Lane Flow Chart - long version

Swim lane flow chart (or swimlane) is a visual element used in process flow diagrams, or flowcharts, that visually distinguishes responsibilities for sub-processes of a business process. Swim lanes may be arranged either horizontally or vertically. In the accompanying example, the swimlanes are named Customer, Sales, Contracts, Legal, and Fulfillment, and are arranged vertically.

The swim lane flowchart differs from other flowcharts in that processes and decisions are grouped visually by placing them in lanes. Parallel lines divide the chart into lanes, with one lane for each person, group or subprocess. Lanes are labelled to show how the chart is organized.

Optionally, the flow can be rotated so that the sequence reads horizontally from left to right, with the roles involved being shown at the left edge. This can be easier to read and design, since computer screens are typically wider than they are tall, which gives an improved view of the flow. Additionally, Microsoft Visio typically displays activities horizontally from left to right.

Use of standard symbols enables clear linkage to be shown between related flow charts when charting flows with complex relationships: use of hyperlinks makes movement between activities on different sheets easy. Swimlanes can be used in manufacturing-related applications to help clarify the overall layout of the processes and help optimize floor capacity and efficiency.

When used to diagram a business process that involves more than one department, the use of swimlanes can clarify not only the steps and who is responsible for each one, but also how delays, mistakes or cheating are most likely to occur. Many process modeling methodologies utilize the concept of swimlanes as a mechanism to organize activities into separate visual categories in order to illustrate different functional capabilities or responsibilities. Swimlanes are used in Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) and Unified Modeling Language activity diagram modeling methodologies.


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