Continuing on with our “What’s inside Excel Everest?” series, which showcases the introductory, “Why is this important?” paragraphs found within Excel Everest. …why is it important to learn?..
Pivot tables are the heart and soul of data analysis in Excel. Pivots (as they are often called), along with vlookups, will grant you sizable Excel credibility if you know how to use them correctly! If you’re hanging out in the corporate coffee room, you know, chatting about data and the topic shifts to Excel, the REAL users will be distinguished from the phonies by those who can pivot. And it’s not that pivot tables are particularly hard. Once you develop an understanding of what they do and what they’re used for, everything else will be intuitive. So let’s get at it, what do they do?
In summary, pivot tables summarize. They take large datasets and break the numbers into categories and then sum, count, or average them (and more!). Let’s say you’ve got a list of sales figures listed by salesperson, and you’ve also got what store the salespeople work for. If you wanted to find out how many sales all of the employees from the North store had without using pivots, you’d have to sort the data and use formulas, pull out the people from each region, or find some other method to sum the data. With pivots, it’s as easy as creating a table and dragging in the column headers for sales and region. Then, you can have Excel slice and dice the numbers for you.
Does that make sense? If not, don’t worry, things will quickly become apparent as we go through examples.