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How to use swimlanes in Process Modeler flows

Swimlane shapes () on a Process Modeler flow diagram organize flow shapes inside separate rectangles to identify a group of tasks that are performed within a specific work context. When you create a swimlane, a router pool is automatically created if one does not already exist.

A router activity specifies the workbasket or worklist that work items are routed to during processing. Specify a router activity in one of two ways:

    • A value in the Router field on the property panel of the swimlane shape associates the router with all assignment shapes inside the lane.
    • The Routing tab of an individual assignment allows you to specify routing for work items on this assignment.

The routing defined on a swimlane overrides routing on an individual assignment. When you specify a router activity on a swimlane, the Router field on the assignment becomes read-only and is populated with the router activity defined on the swimlane.

Using swimlanes, an application designer can clearly illustrate what tasks are being executed by which business entity within the process. This eliminates the need to review individual routing activities defined in each Assignment shape and more easily reconfigure the flow without the need to add or revise the router for each assignment.

Suggested Approach

The following example shows a simple flow that uses swimlanes to route work items. Three swimlanes, Customer Service, Processing, and Fulfillment, are created in a router pool named Claims Processing. Each swimlane has a router activity and assignments associated with it. During flow processing, the router assigns the work item to the appropriate workbasket as defined in the swimlane.

Creating a flow with swimlanes

  1. Determine if you would like the swimlanes oriented vertically (portrait) or horizontally (landscape). Swimlanes assume the default orientation from the Flow Settings in your Operator Edit Preferences.

    If flow orientation is set to Landscape, the Landscape icon on the toolbar () is selected, and swimlanes added to a new flow are placed horizontally. Change orientation by clicking the Portrait icon, before you create a swimlane. The orientation icons are disabled when a swimlane is present.
  2. On the Diagram tab of your flow, add the swimlane shape. When you add a swimlane, a router pool is created automatically. Click the swimlane name to open its property panel and to assign the name and the router activity. The router activity is ToCurrentOperator by default.

    Optionally, click the gray area above the swimlane name to open the pool property panel and provide a name for the pool.

  3. Add more swimlanes as required by your business process. Additional swimlanes place to the right of pools with portrait orientation and on the lower end of pools with landscape orientation.
  4. Drag the assignment shape into the swimlane. You can also add the new assignment on top of the swimlane. Placing the swimlane over an assignment shapes does not associate the assignment with the swimlane.
  5. The router activity specified on the swimlane overrides the router specified on the assignment. The assignment's router field becomes read-only. If you move the assignment out of the pool, the router is removed and the router field is editable.

Moving swimlanes

For more complex flows, you may need to move a swimlane. Select the swimlane, and drag it to the new location in the router pool. Any shapes in the swimlane move with the swimlane.

Re-sizing swimlanes and router pools

To change the width of a swimlane or a router pool, select the swimlane or pool, then click resize icon () in the lower corner and drag the shape to the desired width. When you resize the pool, the lanes resize proportionately.

Deleting swimlanes and router pools

When you delete swimlanes or router pools, the shapes they contain are not deleted.

To delete a swimlane, select the swimlane frame, then press the Delete key.

To delete the pool, click the router pool name, then press the Delete key.

When you delete the last swimlane, the router pool is also deleted.

Additional Information

Introducing Process Modeler, an alternative to Visio for creating and editing flows

Published May 25, 2012 — Updated August 2, 2012


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