Pivot Tables Explained in 3 Minutes

Bottom Line: Learn what pivot tables are and how they can revolutionize your work.

Skill Level: Beginner

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The Magic of Pivot Tables

Pivot tables are essentially summary reports. They simplify your data analysis tasks, making them more efficient and effective. Despite their complex-sounding name, pivot tables are straightforward to use and can significantly enhance your reporting capabilities.

Report and analyze data using pivot tables

How to Create a Pivot Table

To start a pivot table, you'll need some data. This data can be anything relevant to your needs. For instance, let's consider sales data, where each row represents an order.

Suppose your boss wants to see total revenue by month and region. A pivot table can generate this report in just a few clicks.

No Need for Formulas

One of the best things about pivot tables is that they don't need formulas. Simply drag and drop the column names or fields into the report areas, and Excel handles the rest.

Drag and drop fields for pivot table

Pivot tables are highly flexible. If your boss decides they want the report by quarter instead of by month, for example, you can adjust it in seconds.

Interactive and Customizable Reports

Pivot tables enable you to visualize data efficiently using pivot charts. These charts are directly connected to the pivot tables, so any changes you make to the table are instantly reflected in the charts. Adding slicers allows you to filter both pivot tables and pivot charts, making your reports interactive and user-friendly.

Pivot charts and slicers for pivot tables

You can also create interactive dashboards by adding multiple pivot charts to a sheet. These dashboards are quick to set up and don't require complex formulas or extensive formatting.

Example dashboard

Versatility of Pivot Tables

Pivot tables are versatile tools. They can compare multiple data sets, validate data, perform lookups, and much more. Every data analyst should have pivot tables in their toolkit.

Compare data

Are Pivot Tables For You?

Of course, maybe your data has nothing to do with sales orders and you're wondering if pivot tables can be useful for your data type. The answer is most likely yes! Pivot tables are incredibly flexible and capable.

They are also integral to more advanced business intelligence tools like Power Pivot, Power BI, and Tableau. The critical first step in using pivot tables is ensuring that you've correctly formatted your source data. If your data isn't ready, tools like Power Query can help transform it into the appropriate layout.

Power query can help prep your data for pivot tables

Free Resources to Get You Started

I've got a free three-part video series on pivot tables and dashboards to help you get started: Introduction to Pivot Tables, Charts, and Dashboards

Intro to Pivto Tables Charts and Dashboards

Additionally, if you're interested in learning how to use pivot tables alongside other modern Excel tools like Power Query, Power Pivot, Power BI, and even macros and VBA, check out my free training webinar called the Modern Excel Blueprint.

Modern Blueprint Webinar

I hope this post motivates you to get started unlocking the potential of pivot tables in Excel. If you have questions or comments, please leave a note below.

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