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Help Center
Help Center

Swimlane Process Maps: How do They Work Together to Improve Business Processes?

By Daleska Pedriquez, Jan 19, 2023

swim lane process map

Businesses or corporate entities, whether large or small in scale, have processes that all team members need to understand. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, it is critical to document and map out these processes. This is where swimlane process maps come in.

With a swimlane process map, companies can visualize and document cross-functional business processes, thus providing each team or individual with a clear picture of how each procedure is connected.

In this article, I’ll explain what a swimlane process map is, how you can use it in your business and how you can create one easily using Venngage’s swimlane flowchart maker and professionally designed flowchart templates.


Click to jump ahead:

What is a swimlane process map?

The swimlane process map is a type of swimlane diagrams — which are types of flowcharts that divide the steps of a process into smaller categories, or “swimlanes”. These categories represent the groups or individuals that perform each step in the process — which is why they’re also called cross-functional flowcharts.

As the name suggests, the swimlane process map is made for process mapping. You can use it for planning, documenting, and modeling processes.

Unlike swimlane activity diagrams, a swimlane process map illustrates potential scenarios in a process that can result in more than one outcome.

Here is an example of a swimlane process map that shows how an order request process works:

swimlane process map template describing a payroll planning process

Just so you know, some of our templates are free to use and some require a small monthly fee. Sign up is always free, as is access to Venngage’s online drag-and-drop editor.

How to create a swimlane process map

Below are five steps you need to follow to create a swimlane process map.

List all the processes involved in your production

The template below helps visualize the flow of sales orders in a business. It can help show where potential bottlenecks may occur, and identify areas for improvement. This kind of template is also a good way for management to visualize the order process from start to finish.

Sales Process Swimlane Flowchart Template

This template helps illustrate activities that take place in parallel, or at the same time (concurrent), as well as sequential activities, especially in business and manufacturing.

Swimlane Activity Diagram For Engineering Workflow

Determine the participants involved in the process

In this template, you can visualize the flow of activities in a process. It divides the diagram into lanes and dedicates one for each participant in the process. Activities are then represented by arrows, and the direction of the arrow indicates the flow of activity between participants. This kind of template is a great way to see how different activities interact with each other, and how it can help you to identify where you need to improve.

Swimlane Activity Diagram For Engineering Workflow Distribution

Map the process from beginning to end

The below swim lane diagram is a great way to visualize the steps in planning your business. It can help you identify and track the different tasks that need to be completed, and it can also help you to visualize the dependencies between tasks. This diagram also shows how detailed you can get in your planning. You can see that the diagram further shows what you need to do when, say, recruiting talent, managing the talent that you have, or even gaining market share.

Payroll Planning Swimlane Diagram Template

Add symbols to clarify the process

Looking at the sample map below, you’ll notice that some different shapes and colors differentiate each task or process. When you look at it, the swim lane diagram looks like it has several post-it notes. This allows for clearer identification of which task is connected or has an effect on which.

Swimlane Process Map

Even an information system template such as the example below provides a detailed look at a complete process and how actors interact with each other. The process flow diagram also shows when the responsibility for a certain task is handed from one person to another depending on the outcome of the task.

Information Systems Help Desk Workflow Sample

Review and get feedback on

Once you’re done creating your map, have other people who are familiar with the process review it. They can help you identify any errors or omissions, and suggest ways to improve the flow of the process. It’s also a good idea to get feedback from people who are not familiar with the process, as they can offer a fresh perspective on how the process could be improved.

Using swimlane mapping in business

Swimlane process maps are useful for several reasons. For one, they can help teams or any department to better understand how a process works. By seeing each step and who is responsible for it, team members can get a clear picture of the process and how it flows. This understanding can lead to improved communication within teams, as everyone is aware of responsibilities and what needs to be done by who or what workgroup.

Swimlane diagrams can also help to identify bottlenecks or other inefficiencies where a process is not working the way it should be. By highlighting these areas, teams can work on finding solutions to improve the overall process.

Finally, swimlane process maps can be used as training materials for new team members, like this swimlane process diagram template:

internal sales process swimlane diagram

What are the benefits of using swimlanes process maps?

Several benefits come with using swim lanes in your process maps; three of the main ones include:

Improved clarity and understanding: Swim lanes can help to improve clarity and understanding by providing a clear visual of the process and the different actors involved. This can lead to better communication within teams and improved efficiency.

Easier identification of bottlenecks: By visually highlighting each step in the process, it can be easier to identify areas where the process is not working as efficiently as it could be. This information can then be used to find solutions to improve the overall process.

Better training materials: Swim lane diagrams can be used as training materials for new team members, as they provide a clear overview of the process and who is responsible for each task.

swimlane process flow information system helpdesk

What are the disadvantages of using swim lanes?

There are a two potential disadvantages of using swim lanes in your process maps:

Too much information: In some cases, swim lane diagrams can include too much information, which can make them difficult to understand. This is often the case with complex processes that have a large number of steps. Remedying this is easy: you can break down the process into smaller stages and create swimlane diagrams for each stage.

Difficult to create: Swim lane diagrams can be difficult to create, especially if the process is complex or has a large number of steps. This can lead to frustration and wasted time, which could be better spent on other aspects of the business. Again, solving this is easy — you can use a beginner-friendly swimlane diagram maker tool like Venngage and take inspiration from our ready-made, customizable swimlane templates, such as this one:

swimlane product order processing map

5 steps to create swimlane maps in Venngage

Creating a swimlane map in Venngage is incredibly easy. To get started, just follow the steps below:

Step 1: Create a Venngage account for free

Step 2: Go to Templates and search for “swimlane”

Step 3: Pick your desired swimlane process map template and start editing

Venngage has tons of easy-to-edit swimlane diagram templates you can edit — even if you don’t have design experience. Here’s one example of them:

Labor Contract Management Flowchart Template

Step 4: Add text and other icons to your swimlane map

After selecting a template, you can begin customizing your swimlane map by adding your desired text and icons.

Step 5: Finalize and share your swimlane diagram, or upgrade to download

When you’re done, you can share your swimlane diagram using a public link for free. You can also upgrade to download your work in multiple formats.

FAQs about swimlane process mapping

Can you create a swimlane process map in Word?

You can create a swimlane process map in Microsoft Word. However, it’s important to note that Word doesn’t have a built-in swimlane template. As such, you’ll need to create the diagram on your own — using the clunky shape and line tools — or find one online. This can be very time consuming, given that Word isn’t a design tool. Instead, you can create your swimlane process map using a dedicated diagram editor like Venngage.

What should be included in a process map?

When creating a process map, it’s important to include the following:

  • The different steps in the process
  • The people or departments responsible for each step
  • The inputs and outputs of each step
  • The sequence of the steps

Simplify and visualize your process for your team members with a Venngage swimlane process map

Swimlane process maps help you visualize the steps involved in the process, as well as the dependencies between tasks. Additionally, it can also help you identify any errors or omissions in the process. If you’re looking to create a swimlane process map, Venngage offers a variety of templates that you can use. Simply sign up for a free account and start customizing your map today!

About Daleska Pedriquez

Daleska is Venngage’s Marketing Manager. With a background in marketing communications and a deep interest in journalism, she aims to write about exciting topics and make them understandable for everyone.