It's Like GitHub For Spreadsheets

By Dean Zarras

We’re pleased to announce the rollout of the first of a series of version-control features that will allow ClearFactr to behave like a “GitHub for Spreadsheets."

Recall that every ClearFactr plan has an owner — the person who can change the structure of the plan and invite people into it. Shared users are allowed to create scenarios and then all parties can use the Scenario Comparison tool to easily review and analyze the differences.

Today’s rollout of ClearFactr introduces, in GitHub terms, the equivalent of a “Pull Request” and a “Merge”. It allows the plan owner to selectively accept scenario changes made by shared users and to incorporate those into the latest version of the plan.

Exploring the analogy to GitHub is instructive: Any GitHub project also has the concept of an owner. Someone needs to maintain an overall sense of coordination for the project — allowing multiple individuals to just randomly make changes to the project could result in complete chaos. Likewise for spreadsheets!

Through a “Pull Request” a contributor to the GitHub project is basically telling the owner, “Hey, I have some stuff I think you’ll like. Please take a look, and hopefully, incorporate it."

ClearFactr’s mechanism is extremely similar. The Scenario Comparison tool already had the ability to quickly identify the differences between say, a given scenario and the latest version. Visualizing these differences constitutes one possible form of sensitivity analysis. The comparison reporting feature has now been enhanced to allow the owner to select any or all of those changes and merge them into the latest version. It works like this:

(Watch the short video of how the plan used in this example was created...)

1. Launch the comparison tool. By default, the latest version is selected as the ‘B’ scenario, which allows the “A-B” comparison to happen immediately upon selecting the ‘A’ scenario. The ‘A’ scenario could be, for example, one that a shared user has created.

2. Select an ‘A’ scenario. The differences will be shown, like this:

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3. Assuming you are the plan owner, a button will take you to the Scenario Comparison Report which will allow you to see all the differences, or just the Key Drivers. The Key Drivers are the starting points for all of the other differences. Often amongst dozens of differences, there may only be a couple Key Driver differences, such as a growth rate assumption that controls a large part of the model. Note that the Report button will only say "/Merge" if one of the two scenarios is the latest version of the plan.

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4. In Key Driver mode, rows can be selected with the checkboxes at the far left. Simply select the changes you want to incorporate into the latest version of the plan. Once one or more changes are selected, the “Merge Selection” button will enable.

5. Click the button and the latest version will be updated. ClearFactr will then update the display of both the scenario comparison analysis and the Report to reflect the new results.

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Let's compare the comparisons: In the first case we saw that Total Interest paid with the scenario was $240.96 lower than the base case, because the scenario cut the interest rate for the first 6 months to zero. We applied the change in the interest rate, and all of those differences disappeared -- notice that all the cells in the Interest Rate row are white. Now the Total Interest shows a difference of positive $12.95. This makes sense, because the scenario also reduced the payment by $25.00, but we didn't merge those changes -- so the interest charged will be a little higher.

A new version of the plan will automatically be saved as well, with a description that describes the merge operation. It might look something like this:

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As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged. Reach out to us by email, or via our newly integrated live support features, at the bottom of this screen or right in the app itself.

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Spending too much time worrying about spreadsheets...
and not enough about your business?