Cross-functional Flowcharts in Visio 2010

For flowcharts that have clearly defined stakeholders and assignments, cross-functional flowcharts are often used. Today, cross-functional flowcharts can span a whole conference room’s wall. The number of swimlanes can grow to five or even ten! At the beginning of the Visio 2010 planning, we heard from our users that it is hard for them to manage swimlanes and to author large cross-functional flowcharts. We decided that we need to make our cross-functional flowchart more scalable and easier for repeated editing and collaboration.

Here is a list of the top cross-functional flowchart improvements we have made in Visio 2010:

1. Simpler Creation Experience

Just like in the past, you can create a cross-functional flowchart starting from the Cross-functional Flowchart Template. Upon creation, we will automatically create two swimlanes in the cross-functional flowchart for you. To add more swimlanes, you can now mouse along the edge of the cross-functional flowchart to where you want to add the swimlane, and a blue arrow will appear.


Click on the blue arrow and voila, you have a new swimlane inserted!

2. Cross-functional Flowchart Configurations (i.e. “You’ve got options!”)

Once you have created your cross-functional flowchart, you have several options to modify the cross-functional flowchart to your liking. While in the past you had to decide on the flowchart orientation at creation time, you can now change that any time you want, even long after the flowchart is created.

For example, here’s a horizontal cross-functional flowchart:


To change to vertical orientation, you can simply visit the new cross-functional flowchart tab and use the Orientation drop-down menu to switch to a vertical cross-functional flowchart!


Similarly, if you look at the cross-functional flowchart tab, you also have other options such as the showing/hiding of the title or phase bars and the direction of the cross-functional flowchart.

3. Swimlanes as Containers

We’ve discussed the idea of containers in one of our previous posts. One fun fact about the new cross-functional flowchart in Visio 2010 is that swimlanes are containers! Effectively, a cross-functional flowchart in Visio 2010 is in fact a list of containers. What does that mean to you? First, a swimlane highlights when shapes are added to a swimlane:


Second, you can easily reorder swimlanes and the shapes they contain will come along!

4. Editing with Fewer Fix-ups

One common feedback we get from users is that once they have created the flowchart, there is still a lot of fix-up needed. For example, users would often need to align the shapes and fix-up connectors. Cross-functional flowchart is no exception. In one of our previous posts, we discussed how flowchart routing hass been improved. This applies to cross-functional flowcharts as well: cross-functional flowcharts use the same routing style and direction as simple flowcharts, but the additional presence of swimlanes and phases can lead to routes that get hidden because they overlap with swimlane and phase boundaries.

In Visio 2010, the routing engine looks for these overlaps and adjusts routes to avoid them. If necessary, Visio also moves the glue points of dynamic connectors to different sides of shapes to avoid the boundary.


In future posts, we will introduce more improvements for flowcharting, many of which will also benefit cross-functional flowcharts. So stay tuned!

Please use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on this post if you have further thoughts on the cross-functional flowchart feature in Visio 2010. We would love to hear from you!

Comments (16)

  1. Tom says:

    I would like to generate cross functional flow charts from database. Will it be possible?

    Is it possible to do that with VBA?

    Thank you Tom

  2. Gravity Garden says:

    I created a few flowchart templates in Powerpoint. Very easy to do for basic process mapping if interested

  3. Kantkode says:

    I'd buy someone a cookie if they could find a way to link a swimlane in Visio 2010 to a Project 2010 file.

  4. Dan says:

    I need to create the swimlanes by VBA and automatically glue the new swimlane to the previous last. Is that possible? Where can i find more documentation about the new Swimlane shape? Thanks, Dan

  5. Better but... says:

    One frustrating thing is how the CFFs are handled in the Visio object model. If I want to associate a custom property to the CFF as a whole (say, an org ID for the CFF), it can be associated, but then it can't be linked to the heading (ID – Name).

    Vice versa, if I associate the custom property to the heading shape, it can be automatically displayed, but it won't be found when listing the attributes of the CFF. Nor will the heading show up as a shape within the CFF.

  6. Chris says:

    I don't have the cross-functional tab. How do I add it?

  7. Chris says:

    I don't have the cross-functional tab. How do I add it?

  8. MHC says:

    I'm having difficulty with off-page references and cross-functional flowcharts in 2010… in 2007, the swimlanes from page 1 were automatically added to page 2 when the off page connector was created.  How do you get this to work in 2010?

  9. Randi says:

    Need to make the "lanes" in the cross-functional flow chart dotted

  10. I am finding it impossible to resize swimlanes and keep them all the same width. Or insert a new swimlane and make them all the same width. Is there some "trick" to it? It used to be so easy in Visio 2007.

  11. Lisa says:

    I'd like to reduce the height of a swimlane in order to maximise the space available for other swimlanes.  Despite arranging the content of the swimlane towards the top leaving an ocean of space below, I cannot seem to pull the bottom horizontal line of the swimlane up beyond a given fixed point….Any suggestions?

  12. AM says:

    What Ben said.  I have a beautiful flowchart with two swimlanes that now extend about an inch off of the page and I can't edit the length of the swimlane or the Output column width to bring everything into a workable on-page layout.  And "Help" is no help.  You guys change everything up in the UI, but then don't provide the tools necessary to find the changes.  Brilliant.

  13. Josh says:

    I share the pain of not being able to adjust swimlanes… Furthermore, the cross functional flowchart template opens to a blank document. How do I reset this?

    I'm manually adjust the size of swimlanes using View>Task Panes>Size & Position and entering the values for each swimlanes needing adjustment 🙁

  14. Jamie says:

    It is simple to create cross functional flowchart chart in ConceptDraw PRO.

  15. User 123 says:

    I want to add an additional title line in my basic flow chart, but seem unable to do you can anyone help?

  16. Kamila says:

    Thanks so much for such a useful article.

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