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yEd for process diagrams – Part 4 – Creating A Process Map
Now that we have got yEd installed and configured, let’s get going and create a process map. For my shapes, I am going to use a custom section I created in the palette. Don’t worry, we will come back and cover how to do that later.
Let’s say that we are participating in a process improvement effort. The project team has been meeting up in a conference room to map out the process, as it is right now, on a whiteboard. The next thing we need to do is to transfer what is on the white board into a nice neat process map before the team meets up again.
The first step is to take a picture of the map on the board.
Let’s take a look at it.
So, this is a pretty typical image of a whiteboard that you can expect to work with. I took this image with a cellphone camera after the process improvement team meeting.
It is perfectly normal for this to look messy and complicated. You will notice that are there some pretty obvious signs of editing and changes as the process emerged from people’s heads and made it onto the board. Don’t worry about trying to clean things up before you take the picture. We will do all that in yEd.
Also, the whiteboard diagram is oriented horizontally. That’s because that’s the way whiteboards are hung on walls in conference rooms. But we are planning to put this process map in a web page, and you really need a vertical orientation for that. So we will be making the diagram in the vertical format.
I have opened up yEd. We have a new file open by default. But let’s save this right away. Now we can save our changes as we go along by clicking the save button in the tool bar. I’ll call this file “My Demo Process Map”. And to show that this is the process as it is now, before we have improved it, I’ll add (Current). OK.
Let’s start by dragging the vertical swim lane shape onto the canvas. Now you can add it later. But if you do, you will have to remember to lower the swim lane to the back using the command here on the edit menu. That’s because the shapes can sit on top of one another and you want the swimlane shape to be at the bottom the pile.
This is what happens if I bring it in after I have a few shapes already in the canvas. I’ll drag the swimlane on to the canvas. Oops! Now the activities are hidden behind the swimlane. To fix that, I will simply lower the swimlane object so it is at the bottom of the stack. And now we are fine.
Now, before we do anything else, we need to label the swim lanes. The label is a property of the swim lanes.
And to edit the properties of a shape we have to select it. So lets select the swim lane. And right click. As you can see this label is the one for the whole map. We want it to be My Demo Process (Current).
To label the individual swim lanes, we have to select them one by one. So the concept is always to select the element you want to change, then edit the properties. Select the element, right click, and there is the label field.
I’ll change this to “Professional Services”. The other labels we need are “HR”, and “Candidate”. By the magic of fast forward I am going change all the titles in the same way. Well, that was easy.
If I needed to add another lane, I can do that by right clicking the swimlane object and choose, “add column”, right at the bottom of the context menu. I can also drag it into position wherever it is needed.
Let’s refer back to the image I took.
So now, where do we begin? Well, it is clear that the process starts here. Even if it seems obvious where the process begins it is good practice to add a start shape. In a while we will also add end shapes. You might even need more than one end shape.
So now we can follow the process that we have in the image. I usually drag one standard activity shape from the palette and then copy it. As soon as I have done that, I paste it a few times to give me some shapes to work with. Then I can quickly drag them into place.
Now I can start reading the activities off the photo and edit the titles in the activity shapes, one by one. Select and right click. And edit the properties. In this case the label. I’ll fast forward again.
You may find when you start translating the photo to the diagram that you discover errors in the logic or errors in the wording on the photograph. So what do you do? Well, I correct them BUT I make a note so that when I go back to the team with the draft to agree a final version, I know what to bring to their attention. It is not very good practice to just edit it to make it right. The team needs to know what was wrong and what you changed it to.
So here is an activity that has no verb in it’s wording. A well formed process step needs a verb and a subject. After all, it is an activity we are trying to communicate. And an activity demands a verb. This is not just semantics. It will actually improve the clarity of the process map if you use this “verb – subject” method. So I am going to make a note that I changed this.
Now, you are probably itching to start adding the connectors right away. I know, it is very tempting. But what you will find if you do that, is that you will have to adjust them over and over and it is much quicker just to leave them until you have the shapes where you want them.
Now is a good time to save our work. And since we took the time to save this file already we can just hit the save button here.
In the next video we will continue working on this diagram by adding some decisions.