A swimlane diagram can be a great resource for process documentation and management – visually outlining shared tasks and responsibilities for sub-operations within a business process that involves multiple departments. When properly crafted, a swimlane chart can serve to successfully implement new process steps, keep your flow of work and communication organized, or map a process from onset to outcome. This is why every process manager should have a quality swimlane diagram-making tool in their arsenal.
Below we will talk about the features of a robust swimlane diagram creator and what it can do for you. Use the following guidelines to make an informed decision:
Swimlane diagram software refers to any program or app that can generate process flowcharts that group sub-processes by agent and show how their efforts interconnect to complete that process. Placing key operations in separate parallel bands individually assigned to certain employees, teams or departments, the produced visuals serve as a formalized standard of integrating processes across an organization.
Among the swimlane diagram tools available, templates can be a great starting point for building simple visuals that spell out a process or workflow. However, using a dedicated swimlane diagram maker can ensure better results as it will automate many of the actions involved in the creation of cross-functional flowcharts, namely:
Outline the process that needs to be documented and visualized.
Break the overall work down into manageable pieces.
Group these sub-processes into clearly outlined swimlanes.
Associate each swimlane with a particular agent.
Illustrate the connections and relations between lanes.
You can create your next swimlane diagram in your usual Microsoft Office apps like PowerPoint, Word, or Excel. However, using a purpose-built tool instead will make process management easier because:
It helps clarify and communicate complex processes to an entire team – clearly defining who does what and when with well-laid-out swimlane diagrams leads to improved workflows and visibility over how different people, departments and systems interact.
It speeds up the documentation, analysis, and optimization of your processes – quality swimlane diagram software enables you to quickly build high-level visuals that streamline workflows, highlight redundancies, and reduce inefficiencies.
It fosters effective communication and promotes collaboration – by defining who is responsible for individual tasks and how they impact others in the process, a good swimlane diagram maker allows you to work with others on the same chart and, well, page.
What should you look for when reviewing your swimlane diagram software options? Here are some of the most relevant evaluation criteria:
User Interface (UI) - being a visualization tool, a quality swimlane diagram creator needs to feature a clean design and attractive presentation options that allow you to easily share your flowcharts with clients and teams;
Usability - the best swimlane diagram makers are easy to learn and master, and come with a diverse library of diagram templates to get you started faster; does the software company offer free trials, good technical support, comprehensive training, and tutorials?
Functionality - in terms of features, the swimlane diagramming program that you intend to use should include:
a drag&drop interface to easily add, arrange, and align shapes and grids;
a large variety of graphical elements (standard shapes such as ovals, diamonds; connectors) and formatting/customization options (object and text color, size, position) to work with;
collaboration capabilities such as comments, alerts/notifications, or real-time groupware function that lets multiple users edit the same diagram simultaneously;
data import features to automate the creation of your swimlane diagrams;
export functionality to make your visual easy to share and export in a range of formats;
Integrations – look for solutions that easily connect and integrate with other popular planning tools or the ones already used in your organization.
Need more detailed research on swimlane diagram software? Check out our list of the 10 best swimlane diagram tools for project management.
Find below the answers to the most commonly asked questions about swimlane diagram tools.
Swimlanes tools can be defined as any type of software or instruments that help users visually represent important processes and workflows through parallel lanes called swimlanes or functional bands. In other words, the defining characteristic of such process-mapping tools is that they produce flowcharts and activity diagrams with swimlanes as their output.
Ranging from options as simple as pre-formatted, editable swimlane diagram templates to more complex, purpose-built solutions, swimlanes tools simplify and speed up the process of creating swimlane charts.
An integral part of effectively mapping processes, swimlane diagramming entails the creation of charts and diagrams that divide an overall workflow into specific sections and steps through the use of horizontal or vertical swimlanes. Given that you can manually draw such visual representations on paper or build them by customizing pre-made swimlane diagram templates available online, swimlane diagramming is free.
Depending on the level of detail and visual appeal that you want your swimlane diagram to have, there are several go-to resources with which you can start. You can manually create simple, basic swimlane flowcharts using various office tools such as Microsoft Word or Excel, or you can automatically generate more professionally-looking, bespoke depictions of your workflows and processes with the help of a specialized swimlane diagram generator that comes with various customizable pre-designed samples.
Explore both options in depth by visiting our dedicated page on how to create a swimlane diagram.
Here is how you can draw a swimlane diagram in 6 easy steps:
With these essential elements in place, you can move on to using swimlane diagramming software to produce a digital version of your hand-drawn process map. Not only will the output look more professional thanks to the program’s ready-made templates and standard symbols, but it can also be quickly updated and edited as often as necessary.
The list of advantages can go even further with certain process-mapping solutions as there are some tools that help you create a swimlane flowchart directly in PowerPoint, making it easy to share in presentations. One such creator of presentation-ready PowerPoint swimlane diagrams is Office Timeline.
Office Timeline is a swimlane diagram maker that every Project Manager should be using for their project meetings.