Go BIG, then go little

Despite the 6-8 rule there are occasions when you need to think large before shrinking your UPN diagram to end-user-friendly proportions.  Or you may have created a process that makes great use of the huge canvas on your 27 inch monitor, but users can’t read it on their mobile devices.

Fortunately the same solution applies to both cases.

Send to Child

On the face of it, a feature in TIBCO Nimbus™ and Elements that can be used to send content down a level sounds like just the thing we need to simplify a complex diagram.

But Send to Child was designed to meet a very different need as described in the dictionary entry

Send to Child is not suitable for mature maps because it is:

  1. Destructive
  2. Irreversible

It does exactly what it says on the tin which means you will be left with a hole in your carefully crafted diagram where the activities and flow lines that you sent down used to be. There is a new activity, with a drilldown but all the flow lines are gone from the parent. You now probably have no idea how the new activity is supposed to connect to the remaining parent activities, so you have to carefully copy and paste all the flow lines from the child diagram and hope you can remember how they were connected on the parent. And having done that for one activity you have to repeat it for the next, and so forth.

You can lessen the impact on the parent by only sending down the activities and the internal flow lines (i.e. the flow lines between activities that are being sent to child) but that just reverses the problem because now you have to copy, paste and connect the flow lines from the parent to the child. Better, but still a PITA.

To be clear – send to child is bad at this because it was never designed to do this.

A Better Way

I’m going to describe a non-destructive method that allows you to reverse an action. I will illustrate it with a real-life example, although this does mean I have to redact a lot of it.

  1. Print the original diagram, if you know what’s good for you.  Seriously, having a printed copy of the original state that you can refer back to is a good idea.

  2. Review the diagram and decide how the items are grouped.

    1. You can place coloured text boxes around each group to help you remember which is which, or just draw round them on the printed copy.

  3. Create an activity box for each group above or below the main flow and create an empty drill down on each one. 

  4. Carefully select and copy the activities, flowlines and any other items that belong to the first group.

  5. Go to the drill down on the new activity box and paste the selected items into it. While you’re there you can tidy up the diagram – close up some gaps, sort out some flow lines, to make it more readable.

  6. Go back to the parent diagram and carefully select all the activities and the inner flow lines that connect them. 
    1. Ignore lines that already float or are connected to activities outside the group.
    2. Delete the selected items.
  7. Drag the populated drill down you created in step 5 down into the gap left by the deletion. 
    1. Delete the coloured text box. 
    2. Connect all the floating lines to this activity box.  Don’t bother making the lines look good at this stage.  Any good work will soon be undone when we process the other groups.
  8. Repeat steps 4 – 7 for all activities that need to be moved down. Note:  on reflection, the blue area on the original only contains one box, so we don’t need a drill down for that activity – we can use it as is.  That’s the benefit of using a non-destructive method – we are able to change our minds as we go.

  9. Now you can tidy up the diagram.  As you do this you may see some potential to reduce the number of flow lines. UPN Standard & Practice says:We have just rolled up the lower level inputs, so we need to do some pruning of the lesser ones on the parent:

    That looks much better and it’ll be readable on my smartphone.


This method is preferable to the destructive, irreversible behaviour of Send to Child.  There’s no denying it’s a manual process but it’s also safe. 




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>