A swimlane diagram is a type of process flow diagram (also sometimes called a cross-functional diagram) that features divisions or “lanes.” Each lane is assigned an actor (which may be an individual, department, division, group, machine, entity, and so on), or even a phase or stage in a process, that is responsible for the activity or work described in the lane.
Lanes may be displayed in horizontal rows or vertical columns. (Vertical swimlanes are more common in UML Activity diagrams, while horizontal swimlanes are more common BPMN flowcharts.) Whether displayed in rows or columns, the information is always displayed in a logical, chronological order.
There are several advantages in using swimlane diagrams:
- A swimlane diagram serves as a clean, easy-to-follow way to identify multiple actors or phases in a system. Stakeholders and others who may not have a lot of knowledge of a process will be able to quickly identify the actors responsible for each activity.
- The swimlane concept is versatile and can be applied to a number of diagrams, including UML activity diagrams, BPMN diagrams, or general diagrams.
- Because they display so much information so succinctly, swimlane diagrams are particularly useful for identifying redundancies, problem areas, or inefficiencies in a business process.