So, I used to work for a firm that does everything from due diligence to post-close integration work for private equity firms (CMF). One of the things that always struck me as odd was how difficult was to keep track of who made what changes (and when) within a particular file. For example, we would always put together a "report book" (a spreadsheet file with all of our analysis, etc.). And usually the team would be comprised of 2 to 3 people who each worked on a different aspect of the engagement (e.g., I might work on the Income Statement while Joe Schmoe might work on the Balance Sheet). But whenever we wanted to combine our work, it was always a huge pain. Even when you only had 2 people working on the engagement, it was a difficult and manual process to merge the two files. As such, one of the things we want to make dead simple is tracking changes.

Now, you might step in and think that existing software packages have the ability to "track changes" - in fact there is a button I can press that says so! Alas, existing functionality is not the panacea that one might hope for ... what we usually found was that turning this "feature" on was more trouble than it was worth. For example, if we entered a value of 10 in cell A1 and then sent it to a friend, "tracking changes" wouldn't always note that cell A1 was originally 10 when the workbook was sent back (e.g., if someone accidentally 'accepted' changes before the file was sent back). More importantly though:

  1. There was no way to restore old versions (e.g., what if I accepted changes, but then changed my mind and wanted to go back?).

  2. There was no way to integrate changes from multiple Authors (e.g., if you sent the file to 2 people and they sent it back, there was no easy way to incorporate the changes from both individuals).

  3. There was no way to view the changes side-by-side (e.g., you could manually go through and see changes since the last time you reviewed the file, but it always felt "out of context").

Thus, we've been working on reconciling these deficiencies by ensuring that versioning is one of the most robust components of the product. In our last release, we gave you the ability to do some simple tracking - creating versions / snapshots was as simple as clicking a drop down menu and choosing a version name. Restoring the version was also as simple (just choose the version from the menu provided). We've taken that idea even further now by tracking column and row insertions and deletions. We've also started to track anything that you've renamed (e.g., renaming column A to 'Revenue'). Thus, you can now rename a column, save a version, change the column name again and restore the old version without missing a beat.

We're also almost finished with our versioning front-end where we give you the easiest way to visualize changes between two files; send a file to a friend, they send it back and voila - see and understand the changes instantly!

If you're interested in following our progress, I suggest you sign up for our beta program (you can do so by clicking on our main page). Happy modeling (and Happy Halloween)!

Written by ktr in misc on Mon 31 October 2011. Tags: Versioning, Features,

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