What is a Pivot Table? Benefits, Challenges, and Examples

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What is a Pivot Table Benefits Challenges and Examples

Suppose you’re in a line of work that involves looking at, analyzing, understanding, arranging, or otherwise interacting with data in any meaningful way. In that case, a pivot table is likely a tool that you want to use. Using a pivot table would make your life much easier.

First of all, what is a pivot table?

Simply put, a pivot table is a data processing technique that manifests as a statistical table that lays out data about a different table in a way that usefully points out relevant and meaningful statistics.

If that sounded like gibberish (of course, it did), the basic idea is that a regular spreadsheet, like an Excel document, presents information in a very simple way. Simplicity is great for clarity, but it does limit your ability to get bigger picture information about the spreadsheet’s content. That’s where pivot tables come in with their ability to give you data about your data.

Think of it this way: if you’ve ever looked at a spreadsheet with thousands of rows and wanted just a summary of a few key factors to help you conclude, a pivot table is exactly what you wished for.

Benefits of a Pivot Table

If you’re not currently using pivot tables, you’ll find there’s a world of benefits that you’re not taking advantage of. First, pivot tables are easy to use and understand.

Though pivot tables are a level above absolute beginner Microsoft Excel skills, they are easy to learn. Once you’ve figured them out, they can be even easier to understand than the spreadsheet itself. People can also apply those same skills in Excel on a Google Sheet. Pivot tables are also fast, allowing you to analyze data instantaneously instead of taking the time to count or calculate something manually.

One of the other main benefits of pivot tables is making a large amount of data manageable and less intimidating. They’ll reduce tens of thousands of cells into just a small table, allowing you to analyze a lot of information easily. It’s also interactive, making it more engaging than just working with a big, unwieldy spreadsheet.

Pivot tables summarize data, they make it easy to find patterns, and they’re more accurate than if you tried to do the work of a pivot table as a human being.

Challenges of Pivot Tables

That being said, pivot tables are not a miracle and, though they are powerful, they still have their disadvantages. As we mentioned earlier, an Excel beginner won’t easily figure out how to use a pivot table on their own, so there is a learning curve. It takes knowledge of Excel before creating a decent pivot table on your Excel file, Excel spreadsheet, or Excel workbook.

Beyond that, it is worth noting that in Microsoft Excel, pivot tables do not automatically update as you change the data they originate from, meaning you run the risk of updating your original spreadsheet and then accidentally working from an outdated, inaccurate pivot table. This requires a sharp memory to refresh your pivot tables or create new ones as needed.

Pivot tables generally work great, but they can run into snags if certain cells they are attempting to read are blank or filled in the wrong format. Your original spreadsheet will have to be well-crafted, with clear column headings and consistent formatting for a pivot table to work well. Not a row should be misaligned. You may use a template if creating a pivot table from scratch is a bit challenging for you.

Finally, you should know that sharing an Excel pivot table or an Excel table with somebody else will only work if the second party has Excel themselves, as pivot tables can not be always be viewed in applications outside of Microsoft Office.

How to Take Pivot Tables Beyond Microsoft Excel

The good news is that, though most people use pivot tables in Excel, they can also be created in many other types of spreadsheet software (or even, hint, hint, business intelligence (BI) software). You can make a data table in Excel format, with Excel formula, in a spreadsheet software aside from Excel itself.

Microsoft Excel may be the business standard due to its ubiquity, history, and accessibility, but the other options are also worth considering. For example, Google Sheets is a great option for people who prefer to work and collaborate online or those who don’t have access to Microsoft Office, and it has good function, too.

Other options include Zoho sheets, an online application specifically created for working with and creating spreadsheets, and Apple Numbers, the proprietary spreadsheet software Apple includes with every Mac.

Finally, you may opt for a self-service business intelligence tool such as DashboardFox. This is a great option to use as your business grows, as it decreases human error, automatically refreshes your data, makes collaboration easy, and promises stronger security than the alternatives.

How DashboardFox Can Supercharge Your Pivot Tables

If you are a business intelligence professional, using a BI tool like DashboardFox is a no-brainer. It allows you to use a familiar data display option, as a pivot table, but with the added advantages of being:

  • web-based interactive dashboard
  • ability to drilling down from the pivot table to underlying data
  • data segmentation and filtering
  • scheduled delivery of data via email
  • data-level security
  • real-time feeds from live databases

With DashboardFox, you can import your raw spreadsheet data, and DashboardFox will automatically convert that into a database format and enable codeless report building.

That data can easily be converted into a pivot table or any out-of-the-box visualization methods, such as Treemaps, Charts, and KPIs.

DashboardFox can also create out-of-the-box visualization types, such as a regular pivot grid, and a pivot grid with hierarchy, similar to those created on Microsoft Excel without any hassles on both ends.

DashboardFox creates seamless Pivot Tables with Hierarchy for easier viewing.
Pivot Grids by DashboardFox are similar to the ones in Excel, which makes them familiar to users.

Lastly, it can also create a clear and concise-looking Advanced Pivot Table without any unnecessary information or tables. You will be assured that DashboardFox will double the efficiency you can get from these Pivot Grids it can create for you in a seamless manner.

Advanced Pivot Tables allow you to see multiple hierarchies by many rows and column headings.

If you’re looking for real-time business intelligence that is easy, powerful, and affordable, we want to help. Contact us, and let’s discuss your requirements and start a trial of DashboardFox in your environment.

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