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How to use router pools and swim lanes in flows (V5.5)

Updated on September 10, 2021


Swim Lane shapes ( ) on a Visio flow diagram representation organize flow shapes inside separate rectangles to illustrate related group of tasks that are performed within a specific work context. A Router Pool shape ( ) (previously called a pool) contains one or more swim lanes.

As of v5.5, you can specify a router activity in the Swim Lane shape, which associates the router with the Assignment shapes inside the lane. As a result, work objects are assigned to the appropriate worklist or workbasket defined by the router.

Using router pools and swim lanes, a developer 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.

This article describes how an existing process can be reconfigured to use router pools and swim lanes.

Suggested Approach

In the purchase order application shown here, three routers are used to identify individual worklists in each assignment. The users in all three assignments belong to the same work group.

The process has been reconfigured so that the Manager Approval and VP Approval assignments will each be performed in separate work groups and linked to workbaskets. Therefore the flow will add a router pool containing three lanes - one for Engineering (the organization unit in which the order requests are entered), one for the Accounting work group, and another for the Finance work group.

Do the following:

  1. Open the flow in Visio, select the entire diagram and slide it to the left margin of the Visio work area.
  2. Drag and drop a Router Pool shape to the right of the diagram. Be careful not to place the pool over the existing shapes, which will automatically move inside the lane if enclosed by the pool.
  3. In the RouterPool properties panel enter the name of the process (in this example it is Purchase Order Process) and click Apply.

  1. Select the Swimlane shape (rectangle within the pool shape). In the Properties panel, enter the work group name Engineering, select in the Rule field the standard ToCurrentOperator in Work- class. Click Apply. Note that you can leave the Rule field blank.

  1. Drag a Swimlane shape onto the Router Pool shape. The new lane will snap to the right side of the first lane.
  2. In the Swimlane Properties panel, enter the name Accounting. For the purpose of this exercise, assume that the developer has created in the application's work class a router activity called ToAccounting , which assigns work to the Accounting workbasket, which is linked to the Accounting work group. Select this router in the Rule field.

  1. Add another Swimlane shape next to the Accounting lane. Name it Finance. Select a router activity called ToFinance, which has been configured to assign work to the Finance workbasket associated with the Finance work group. When you are finished, your diagram should look something like this:

  1. Delete the Router shapes attached to the Assignment shapes.
  2. Select the Manager Approval and VP Approval assignments and change the labels in the property panels to Accounting Approval and Finance Approval, respectively. Apply the changes.
  3. Select the Needs Manager Approval and Needs VP Approval Decision shapes and replace the names with Needs Accounting Approval and Needs Finance Approval, respectively. Apply the changes.
  4. Select the ManagerResolve and VPResolve flow action connectors, open the flow rules ManagerApproval and VPApproval in each property panel. Then create and save a copy of each rule named AccountingResolve and FinanceResolve, respectively. Replace the existing rules with the new ones and apply the changes.
  5. Move the shapes into the appropriate lanes as shown here:

Note that the router fields in the Assignment shape property panels are locked and values cannot be entered.

Working with swim lanes and router pools

  • Adding a swim lane — If a lane is dropped over shapes, the lane moves them (including overlapping shapes) inside the lane and centers them there. As you place additional Visio shapes, take care not to overlap lanes. The shape will snap to the center of the closest lane. You can always move a shape from one lane to another. It will take on the router of the new lane.
  • Copying and pasting a swim lane — You can copy and paste a swim lane to the router pool. The new swim lane retains  the copied lane’s width,  router information, and title. It does not contain the shapes that were in the copied lane.
  • Dragging and dropping a swim lane — A swim lane may be dragged to a new position within its pool. Any shapes within the lane move with it. If dragged outside the pool, a swim lane is positioned as the first or last lane of the parent pool, depending on its proximity to the right or left edge of the pool.
  • Deleting a swim lane — Select the swim lane frame and delete it. You cannot delete the last swim lane in a pool. Be careful not to select the router pool frame. If the first or last lane is deleted, the other lanes remain in position. If an interior lane is deleted, the lanes to its right move to the left to close the gap.

    Deleting a swim lane also deletes the shapes within it. When you attempt to delete, a warning message appears and asks for confirmation. 
  • Changing the width of a swim lane — Grab a resize handle along the vertical edge to widen or narrow it.  The pool will widen or narrow to accommodate the added or removed space.  Shapes within repositioned lanes move along with the lane. You cannot change the height of an individual swim lane.
  • Resizing a router pool — When you change the width of a router pool shape, all swim lanes change proportionately.  The shapes within a lane do not change size. You can adjust the pool's height with corresponding changes to lane heights.
  • Deleting a router pool — If you delete a router pool, all of its lanes are deleted. Other shapes in the flow will not be deleted.

Upgrading pools and swim lanes

In releases prior to V5.5, pools and swim lanes defined and separated processing performed by distinct organization units within one division, or that depended upon the value of a work object property. Pool and swim lane shapes in such versions will function as originally configured in V5.5 and later. However, you cannot add additional lanes for organizations or property values. It is suggested that you upgrade them to router pools, which use swim lanes that employ router activities. This enables you to more precisely direct work to worklists and workbaskets and clearly illustrate routing behavior.

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