Swimlanes are used to show how roles, rights, tasks, responsibilities, obligations, liabilities or remedies are distributed between different parties. Each party’s area of responsibility is represented by a column, or lane, where the items are assigned. Shared responsibility items are placed in-between lanes.
Contract users may struggle to keep track of all their rights, obligations, and responsibilities – and how they were allocated – because the information needs to be retrieved from many different clauses, or even from different documents. This is particularly a challenge with long and complex contracts.
Swimlanes are helpful in planning and presenting contractual situations where both parties have separate and joint responsibilities (e.g. intellectual property rights allocation; outsourcing; personal data processing; quality monitoring).
During the contract creation stage, swimlanes work as a checklist and help the parties to keep track of all responsibilities and tasks that need to be assigned, so that nothing is forgotten. During the contract implementation stage, swimlanes allow the parties to check more easily on their share of responsibilities, so they are in a better position to deliver on them.
A major part of any contract is about assigning rights, obligations, and responsibilities to the parties. Swimlanes provide a concise summary to help people to understand their roles and responsibilities, align expectations, and to monitor the contract.
Swimlanes can also promote collaboration between the parties, because they clarify who needs to do what, and whether a responsibility is shared. During contract planning, they allow the parties to spot whether the contract is balanced and collaborative, or whether most of the responsibilities weigh on just one party. They can also be used to make the parties aware of areas where the contract remains silent.
© 2019 Stefania Passera, Helena Haapio, and WorldCC