Introducing “Modelets”

Sumwise’s solution to a very common spreadsheet modeling problem–managing repeating rows and columns.

Consider how many times you use a certain set of row or column names multiple times throughout your spreadsheets and the difficulties that this presents. For example, let’s say you have a forecast for a business that has 2 products: Hardware and Software. You might land up using these row names multiple times throughout your model e.g. to forecast sales, units, and inventory. Further imagine that once you’ve built this model you decide you need to add another item to this list, say Services. To get this to work you need to find all the places where you’ve used Hardware and Software and add another row to this list. This involves copying and pasting, deleting unwanted contents, and a fair measure of faith that you’re not destroying part of the model’s logic. Other complexities can present such as changing the names of these rows, or reordering these rows and ensuring that the correct data goes with the correct row labels.

None of the above is easy with traditional spreadsheets such as Excel or Google’s spreadsheet — in fact is extremely difficult to get a normal spreadsheet to deal with all of these (seemingly simple) pieces of functionality.

We’ve added a feature to Sumwise, called Modelets, that deals elegantly with these problems. A Modelet can be thought of a small piece of a model, for example, a set of rows that always go together e.g. Hardware, Software, and Services, or a set of columns that always go together such as 2010, 2011, 2012, etc. At a basic level this is akin to what is usually called “dimensions” in a multi-dimensional data structure, where the dimension “Products” might contain a list of items such as Hardware, Software and Services. However, where Modelets differ from dimensions, is that Modelets can be invoked or applied in only the parts of the model that the user requires. Dimensions are much more rigid and are either “there” for all rows or columns or hidden completely.

Modelets enable you to define a set of nodes (i.e. rows or columns) once and then apply this set to any node in your model. From then on, when you make a change to any of these items, or add items to the list, this change is made everywhere in the model that the Modelet has been used. This is probably best described using an example, so if you’d like to learn more please view the video below.

You can access a working copy of the model in this video by clicking this link.

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