Layer

How to use Layer to collaborate on budgeting, planning, and reporting using spreadsheets.

Everyone is familiar with the problem with sharing files with collaborators, managing when edits are made, version controlling the files, and making sure that everyone’s inputs and edits make it into the final version. Layer helps solve that problem by providing a way for you to upload Excel files, share with collaborators with granular access controls, and automatically merge approved edits back into the master file.

Use Google Sheets? Currently Layer only supports uploading Excel files to share, but is working on allowing users to link and synch in Google Sheets.

You can share an entire file, specific sheets, specific ranges, and specific cells via Excel, Google Sheets, and Layer sheets, to allow your collaborators to submit inputs and edits to the parts shared to them, and then Layer allows you to review all the edits made and approve or ignore each edit individually. Layer powers this through their web interface, as well as an Excel add-in.

How to use

First, request access to Layer. Once you have an account, their docs provide good explanations on how to use Layer and some ideas for best practices and potential usecases for your business. The basic process:

  1. Upload the spreadsheet file you want to share into Layer
  2. Click on the “Share” button, and follow the prompts to identify the items you wish to share, ranging from entire file, specific sheet(s), ranges of cells, and specific cells (you can combine those methods for a single file)
  3. Type in the email address(es) of your collaborator(s), with a subject line and message for the email that Layer will send to them, and click the “Request Input” button
  4. Your collaborator(s) will get an email, they can simply click through to se the parts of the model you shared with them and add in their own inputs and edits (they do not need a Layer account), then share it back to you
  5. You will then be able to view what they changed, and accept or ignore each input, and Layer will automatically update the master file.

This is also demonstrated in the video above, and covered in their documentation.

What would you use Layer to do? While Layer works for any workflow or process powered by spreadsheets, the primary usecases at the moment are budgeting, planning and reporting, working across marketing, operational and financial teams.

More web tools for building financial models at Alternative to Foresight →