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New Post 11/7/2011 11:04 PM
User is offline Adrian M.
763 posts
3rd Level Poster

What is a Swimlane Diagram? 

Hi Guys,

In your opinion: "What is a Swimlane Diagram"?

Is there such a diagram as a swimlane diagram or are swimlanes only meaningful in the context of other diagram types such as activity diagram or BPMN process diagram?

What do you think?


Adrian Marchis
Business Analyst Community Blog - Post your thoughts!
New Post 11/8/2011 7:53 AM
User is offline Tony Markos
493 posts
5th Level Poster

Re: What is a Swimlane Diagram? 


From a Data Flow Diagrammer's perspective, a Swimlane is an example of a forced, artifical partitioning.   Ya ain't going to be able to do large scale systems integration by "dividing up the pie"  that way!

When I do a decomposed set of data flow diagrams for a larger project, any given organization can logically result on any number of different diagrams.  If I were to, for example, place Purchasing processes all together, the result would often be a real spider's web of data flows.  So much as to make the diagrams worthless.



New Post 11/19/2011 5:28 PM
User is offline Kimbo
454 posts
5th Level Poster

Re: What is a Swimlane Diagram? 
Modified By Kimbo  on 11/19/2011 8:29:15 PM)

 Hi Adrian,

A swimlane is just a way of showing actors in a business process diagram e.g. activity diagram or BPMN; or whatever the lanes are in a UML sequence diagram. I don't use sequence diagrams but I've heard them described as having swimlanes. Expect you know all this of course.

MS Visio has a bastardised business process diagram that lots of people seem to use (badly) that also has swimlanes. Trying to get the place I'm contracting to at the moment to abandon this and take up BPMN.

So no, I don't consider there is such a thing as a 'swimlane diagram'.


New Post 11/22/2011 7:48 AM
User is offline AdamITBSA
12 posts
10th Level Poster

Re: What is a Swimlane Diagram? 

Hi Adrian and all,

No, I don't think there's analytical value to a dedicated "swimlane diagram."  The concept of swimlanes is key, but the value of using them for analysis comes through in pairing them with other modeling methods.

As Kimbo mentions above, swimlanes are great for showing interactions between actors.   If not paired with a more analytic technique, however, I'd argue that they function more as illustration than model.  

For example: I can easily throw a couple ad-hoc swimlanes into a PPT or on a whiteboard to describe a flow of interactions.  This gets the concept across very easily to business partners and non-analytical stakeholders... it *illustrates* an example.  I wouldn't necessarily consider it an accurate (or actionable) model.

If someone is asked to produce a "swimlane diagram," I suspect that the requestor is asking for a more structured process model (take your pick of methodologies) but may not be aware of what is available / what is appropriate.

-- Adam

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