Using the Cross-Functional Flowchart Phases in Visio

The cross-functional flowchart template is possibly one that I use most frequently, and I do like the way that the Function Shape Data value is automatically evaluated from the Swimlane that is is within. But why did Microsoft issue the template without the same feature for the Phases? This article describes how to fix that issue, and is also a plea to Microsoft to correct it in a future release….

So, all of the flowchart shapes contain a Shape Data row named Function, as in the following screenshot, and the value is automatically updated to that entered into the Swimlane header. If the user updates the header text, or moves the shape between lanes, then the value gets updated.



Great, but how does it do it? If I look in the ShapeSheet of any of these flowchart shapes, then I find the following:


The relevant formula is in the Prop.Function cell:


It is thus getting the value of the User.VisHeadingText cell in the first container shape with the category “Swimlane”.

If I look in the Swimlane master shape, I can indeed find that User-Defined cell:


This User.visHeadingText cell contains the formula:


It needs to reer to a sub-shape in the group because that is where the text is actually entered.

However, the user can also add multiple Separator shapes to the diagram, and label those too with unique text.



So, I checked out the Separator master to see if it could be easily enhanced to be used in a similar way.

Fortunately, I can edit masters in the local Document Stencil, but I should also ensure that the Match master by name on drop is ticked, in order to avoid multiple masters being created after my changes,


Then I opened up the master to edit it. I noted that the category is Phase for this shape.


I also noted that the text, whose default is “Phase”, is actually part of Sheet.6, so I created a new User-Defined cell name visHeadingText, and entered the following formula:


I could then edit one of the flowchart shapes in the Document Stencil (always remembering to check the Match master by name on drop setting).

I added a row named Phase, with the label “Phase”


I entered the formula:


I then created a Shape Data Set from this shape, and saved the master, accepting changes to existing shapes.


Now, I could edit any other masters and apply the Shape Data Set, and save them.


I did have to move any existing shapes in my diagram to “wake up” the formula, but then they worked fine, as do any newly dropped shapes. They now Have a Phase Shape Data row which is automatically updates from the Separator/Phase that it lies within.



So, I can now have my own custom version of the Cross-Functional Flowchart template that contains updated master shapes…

The Microsoft Visio engine does also automatically add the Function shape data row to ANY shape that is placed in a Swimlane. I haven’t bothered with that here ….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


O365 and SharePoint

Simplify Tasks

Want to learn the simple way?

Paul Turley's SQL Server BI Blog

sharing my experiences with the Microsoft data platform, SQL Server BI, Data Modeling, SSAS Design, Power Pivot, Power BI, SSRS Advanced Design, Power BI, Dashboards & Visualization since 2009

John Goldsmith's visLog

be smart, be clear, be visual ...

Mo's blog

Personal views on Dynamics 365 for Operations and Technical Architecture.

Chris Webb's BI Blog

Microsoft Power BI, Analysis Services, MDX, DAX, M, Power Pivot and Power Query

Azure Solutions for Office 365, and more...

Rob Fahrni



Life with Visio and other Microsoft Toys!

Nilsandrey's Weblog

Just another weblog

Things that Should be Easy

Every so often (too often in the IT industry) I encounter things that should have been very easy to do but turned out to be far too complicated. My favorite topics include SharePoint, .Net development, and software architecture, especially distributed systems.

Visio Guy

Smart graphics for visual people

%d bloggers like this: