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Use Swimm Lanes to Document System Components

A common challenge in software development is to synchronize the different phases and stake holders in a development project. Business users care about the business functionality, infrastructure people about the system setup (servers, network, storage etc.), interaction designers about the UI, developers about code libraries and and and. Typically you have a different set of artifacts to document and cover the various aspects. While looking at the forest of information you might loose sight of the trees. How does a User requirement map into a story, a use case, a system module a piece of infrastructure? A neat way to show the connection between all these are swim lane diagram. Swim lane diagrams are a part of UML and typically used to show the flow between modules of a system. I'm using swim lanes to visualize application flow with the help of Sequence that allows me to type the flow rather than draw all of it. But the use of swim lanes is not limited to program flow. I have a great history book that uses swim lanes to show what happened on every continent over a time line. Back to software development. You can use swim lanes to document the development process and its components: story board, use case, feature, user experience, business process, tools and systems. Have a look at great example and the explanation around it, as well as some more thought and downloads. How do you get your story in sync?

Posted by on 19 November 2008 | Comments (1) | categories: Software


  1. posted by Mark Haller on Thursday 20 November 2008 AD:
    Hey Stephan

    Thanks so much for this! I've just bookmarked wikipedia link.

    A senior user for a JAD project we were doing a few months back came to me one day with some ideas for a process flow and I was stunned a) I had never seen this type of diagram, and b) how easy it was to read - the separation of process/flow and resource pools has always been difficult and this type of diagram makes it easy.

    I've just checked in Visio and the template is there on all versions, called "UML Model Diagram" (at least in Visio 2007).

    Thanks for the post!