Swimlane diagrams are used to visualize and communicate processes and their components.
They can enable team members to understand their roles and responsibilities more clearly and make way for better collaboration between departments.
In this post, we will show you how you can use a swimlane diagram for your projects and give you swimlane templates and examples for inspiration.
If you aren’t familiar with creating swimlanes, you can use Venngage’s Swimlane Flowchart Maker to design effective diagrams.
Click to jump ahead:
- What is a swimlane diagram?
- How to create a swimlane diagram
- 12 Swimlane diagram examples with use cases
- FAQs about swimlane templates
What is a swimlane diagram?
A swimlane diagram is a type of flowchart or process flow diagram that outlines a process from start to finish.
Mirroring the lanes of a swimming pool, this type of diagram uses horizontal or vertical lanes to divide a process into sections. This helps illustrate who is in charge of each set of steps or actions.
Here is an example of a simple swimlane flowchart or diagram that illustrates the step-by-step process for business planning:
Swimlane diagrams are also called cross-functional flowcharts because they organize the relationships between functions or departments involved in all the process steps.
How do you use a swimlane diagram?
Project managers can use a swimlane diagram to elaborate the steps of a complex project and assign the tasks required for its completion.
Swimlane diagrams are typically used for projects that cover different departments in order to clearly distinguish the objectives of each department and the individuals within.
By using a swimlane diagram, you can promote better communication between departments and help teams work together more easily and efficiently.
How to create a swimlane diagram
To create a swimlane diagram, you must first familiarize yourself with the shapes and symbols that are used in one. These include:
- Start/end points. These signal the beginning and end of the process flow and are characterized by a rectangle with rounded corners.
- Decision shape. It takes the shape of a diamond and symbolizes a question or decision that needs to be made.
- Activity shape. A rectangle that is used to portray an action or task.
- Input or Output. A parallelogram that refers to any information that is entered in or produced from the process flow.
- Document. Represents any document that is needed in the process flow. Shaped like a rectangle with a wavy line at the bottom side.
- Connector. Small circles that indicate that the diagram is connected to another flowchart.
Now, to make your own swimlane diagram, follow these steps:
Step 1: Define your goal
The first step in creating a swimlane diagram is to identify your objectives or desired outcome for the diagram. Why are you creating a swimlane diagram? Answering this question will help you decide how detailed you need to get in the process.
Step 2: Choose a starting point
Now, map the start of the process by writing down the first step or task that puts it into motion. It could be a customer placing an order or the team receiving requirements from a client. Enclose the starting point in a rounded rectangle.
Step 3: Create swimlane categories
Next, define the participating entities for the process. These are the functions or departments that will be performing the steps or tasks in the process and they will serve as your swimlane categories.
Create a swimlane for each by drawing horizontal or vertical lines across the document to separate the entities. Label the swimlanes and write the functions either at the top of the page for a vertical swimlane or on the left side for a horizontal swimlane.
Step 4: Create the steps
Now it’s time to break the process into separate steps. List the tasks that each department needs to take to complete the process. Draw from left to right and if there are multiple steps in one swimlane, list them from top to bottom.
Make sure the steps are aligned on the correct swimlane and are in sequential order. Remember to use the correct symbols and shapes for each part of the process flow.
Keep enhancing the flow until you reach the end of the process and you come up with a diagram that looks like this:
Step 5: Connect and design your diagram
Lastly, add connections between the lanes and steps using lines or arrows. Finish your diagram by adding colors to the shapes and symbols to create a distinction between the departments and their corresponding tasks.
How to create a swimlane diagram using Venngage’s Swimlane Flowchart Maker
If you want to create an actionable swimlane diagram, then the tool you will choose for making the diagram is the most crucial part of the creation process.
Whether you’re a designer or not, Venngage’s Swimlane Flowchart Maker can help you create informative and visually appealing swimlane diagrams. The smart editor allows you to easily customize flowchart templates so you can create professionally designed and branded swimlane diagrams.
Follow these steps to create a swimlane diagram for free:
- Sign up to create an account
- Select from our free flowchart templates
- Add or edit the shapes and symbols in your swimlane diagram template
- Easily resize and realign the shapes and connecting lines through the drag-and-drop feature
- Add finishing touches to your diagram and change the colors, fonts, and icons by choosing from our library.
With a Venngage business account, access My Brand Kit and import your logos, brand colors and fonts with just one click.
12 Swimlane diagram examples with use cases
Use these swimlane diagram templates and examples to clarify the complex parts of a business process or project:
1. Sales order swimlane diagram
This swimlane flowchart template describes the process of receiving and fulfilling a customer purchase order. Featuring 4 different departments, it can be used in a retail setup.
2. Ordering swimlane process flow diagram
Here’s another swimlane diagram that depicts the order fulfillment process in an e-commerce setup, with only the customer and the sales manager as the participants.
3. Engineering workflow swimlane diagram
This swimlane diagram template depicts the client registration process and can be used in engineering or construction settings.
4. Labor contract swimlane diagram
Human resources and recruitment departments can use this swimlane diagram template as a guide for the hiring process.
5. Workflow swimlane diagram
Here’s another version of the client swimlane diagram that takes the user through numerous stages from client acquisition to project completion.
6. Retail energy transaction swimlane diagram
This swimlane diagram by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) shows the process of customers switching providers. It can be used by other electric utility companies in documenting similar processes.
7. Sales process swimlane flowchart
Sales and marketing teams can use this swimlane diagram template to guide the process of converting leads into sales.
8. Cyber attack swimlane flowchart
This swimlane diagram illustrates how to solve a cyber security issue. It can be used by HR and IT departments to educate employees about cyber attacks.
9. Cafe ordering process swimlane flowchart
This swimlane diagram can be used by cafes and restaurants. It features additional columns that depict the different moods of a customer which can affect the ordering process.
10. Lead fulfillment swimlane diagram
Consisting of instructions or steps in converting leads, this swimlane diagram template shows how the lead fulfillment process can extend over different departments.
11. Sales quoting approval process swimlane diagram
For retail businesses, sales personnel can follow this swimlane diagram when preparing quotations.
12. Website Development Swimlane Flowchart
Finally, marketing, management, and IT teams can use this swimlane diagram template for a website redesign project.
FAQs about swimlane templates
How do you create a swimlane chart in Excel?
There are two ways to create a swimlane chart in Microsoft Excel. The first and easier way is to use the SmartArt feature and choose a SmartArt graphic that best resembles the structure of a swimlane diagram. The other way is to use basic shapes and manually draw or design a swimlane diagram. Venngage’s Swimlane Flowchart Maker is still the best tool to use if you want to streamline the creation process using handy templates.
Is there a swimlane template in PowerPoint?
Powerpoint currently doesn’t offer swimlane diagram templates. As part of the Microsoft Office suite, the only way you can create a swimlane diagram in Powerpoint is via the SmartArt feature or using basic shapes.
How do you make a swimlane diagram in Word?
Making a swimlane diagram or flowchart in Word involves the same process of using basic shapes or the SmartArt feature. If you want to create a better diagram, Venngage’s Swimlane Flowchart Maker is a tool you can use for free.
In conclusion: Use swimlane diagrams to simplify complex processes and keep multiple teams aligned
Creating a swimlane diagram can help ensure that business processes and projects are communicated effectively.
Easily make a swimlane diagram with Venngage and improve your business planning and project management.