Horizontal or Vertical: What’s your preference when mapping a process ?

This one’s an interesting question since there really is no hard and fast rule and it’s all down to choice. But does aesthetics come into play here, is it more natural to read and scroll through a process one way than the other ? If we take the humble desktop mouse as an example, the scroll wheel will allow us to examine a process modelled up and down quite easily on screen, yet print it off for a workshop and you’ve got a bit of a problem for continuity purposes.

So how do you map yours and why ?
(and we’re talking about the relatively structured processes that can be mapped and presented to the business users through portals, not the haywire dynamic ones)

And a final thought: could you ever see yourself mapping in 3D ?

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9 responses to “Horizontal or Vertical: What’s your preference when mapping a process ?

  1. Both, or "it doesn’t matter" since ARIS allows to scroll sideways with the mouse wheel while pressing the Shift button. I think it is a matter of being used to the majority of examples you saw in the past (EPC = vertical, BPMN = horizontal).Even though I have a slight preference for vertical, since we in the western world read from top left to bottom rigth and are used to "scroll down".

  2. Interesting question…. Experienc from 100’s of projects it is very clear. If it is business focused i.e. designed so that end-users can understand it and work with it on a day to day process then it is horizontal. Also the screen is wider than tall so there is more space left to right. That’s why virtually every process mapping product is left to right.Not take alook at every process modeling tool associated with a workflow/automation/BPMS. They are all top to bottom. Weird eh! Not really. In these tools you are essentiall ‘writing code’ so you do that top to bottom.So the previous comment talked about EPC’s in ARIS. They are top down because ARIS’s heritage is IT-focused.Nimbus Control can document top down or left to right…. but we would advise left to right.

  3. My mac scrolls both ways trivially (not even requiring a shift key : ) vertical lends itself well to nesting/hierarchy – blueprint gives a good example of this, but so does powerpoint or Word :)But horizontal is the way the business thinks of a flow (blueprint does this, and I guess Nimbus does too 🙂 3D? I don’t see it as that interesitng (personally) until display technology makes 3D trivial. don’t hand me any 3D goggles 🙂

  4. Hi Scott,When I meant 3D I didn’t mean with goggles on ;-)Rather than modelling to a flat 2D structure you could model spacially in 3D. An organisation isn’t a flat hierarchy despite how charts are designed and neither are processes. Could add another dimension in representation, for example trying to visualise time increments in a 2D model can be a little clunky at times. It goes some way to explain how easy it can be to simulate models in a virtual world environment too.Theo

  5. I actually think layers are more interesting than "3D" – best analogy I can give are those human body charts were you peel off the first transparency to see what’s under the skin, then muscle, then connective tissue, then bone… I think BPM would benefit from this as well, but leveraging software, you could combine layers or only show one at a time or show all at once (superimposed). – process mapping/ value stream- business only layer- exceptions- all the technical implementation details (even this might constitute more than one layer)heck, I’d prefer to define my own layers and model things accordingly. Lines would only show up if their endpoints exist in visible layers. I think it would be pretty stellar 🙂

  6. One of the reasons I put the diagram orientation feature in RAVEN Cloud was so they could choose either landscape or portrait based upon the situation. It’s their preference after all…DR

  7. I think the 3-D concept is going to be powerful when you think of them (as Scott also suggested) as layers. He’s talking about the build-up layers akin to the layered architecture… However, if one looks from Process Architecture standpoint, the 3D effect would be valuable there too. From business areas, to E-2-E business processes, to functional plug-points, to implementation specific models – the drill down and the linkage "needs" to be real. And that would be powerful to link the tactical/operational/strategic models and parameters…As for horizontal or vertical, I have seen a preference for horizontal for flow, and vertical when showing the hierarchical relationships. It’s more about the visual comfort and not at all with the scroll capability… as far as I’m concerned :)Ashish

  8. to clarify – i don’t care about seeing a 3 dimensional block for an activity… but layers can be thought of as a 3rd dimension if each layer is microscopically thin : )Check out the prezi presentation tool – something like THAT for process would be interesting 🙂 well, it would be visually interesting anyway. But I’m okay if vendors focus on functionally interesting for now.

  9. I’ve used Mindjet MindManager mindmaps in many occasions when facilitation process mapping workshops. The main reason for that is you don’t worry about notation convention and limited real estate. The map evolves as the information around the processes "emerges".Once we have all the process info, we look to put it in a formal mapping/modeling tools (90% of the time it is Visio :-)). We then apply the rules of the modeling notation etc. During the initial phases we want to know as much as possible without constraining ourselves.I have, however, found that clients prefer to refer back to the mind map when discussing the process and ways to improve it. Anyone else used mindmaps?Pieter

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