Saturday, July 2, 2011

Can You Make a Pivot Table? If Not, You Need To Learn

Do you use Excel? Do you know what a Pivot Table is? If your answer to the first question is yes but the second question is no, you need to learn how to create and use a Pivot Table ASAP. Pivot Tables are one of the most useful features in Excel, and they’re a bit like the gateway drug to understanding business analysis and being able to work with data to answer questions.

So what is a Pivot Table? Think of it as a table that allows you to quickly summarize, sort, count, sum, or average your data. If you’ve got a big dataset of sales data, for instance, and you’re asked to see which regions are selling the best, you’d need to create a pivot table to do so. You’d first start by creating the table, dragging in regions to the rows section, and then dragging sales figures into the body of the Pivot Table. Then, Excel would quickly and automatically sum the sales data and tell you which region is doing the best.

It’s a bit hard to really describe what a pivot table is without showing visuals and and walking you through examples but suffice it to say that most charts you see inside spreadsheets were built through the use of pivot tables. Pivots take raw data and turn it into insight. They help you visualize patterns in a sea of numbers and can help you make key decisions that might effect either your organization of your life.

Pivots turn this:

Into this:

So, how do you learn Pivot Tables? There’s a couple of ways, but the best is to get in there and try it! You need to get your hands on some data and then try and make one yourself. First we might recommend doing a quick search on YouTube for “pivot tables” and finding the shortest video you can to explain them. Then, you should try and track down a some public datasets that will let you play with the tables. Or, alternatively, you could snag a copy of Excel Everest :), our educational tool, and we’ll guide you through the learning process.

// Excel Everest ( is a comprehensive Excel tutorial that teaches Pivot Tables and more! The whole learning course is built inside an Excel file itself and provides instruction on 50 topics and presents real world scenarios and examples. These exercises are automatically graded in a big tutorial scoreboard. Companies such as PlayCore, Google, and Hymans Robertson are teaching their employees using Excel Everest.

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