Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pivot Tables: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

This is an introduction to an often disregarded Excel application. Much has been written on Pivot Tables, and much has also been misunderstood about this highly practical, but not perfect tool.

The Good
Every analyst or manager should have at least moderate skills at using pivot tables. You can use pivot tables to summarize, analyze, and explore what-ifs in your data. What is particularly “Good” about them is they are very powerful, lightning fast, and very easy to use. If you have never experimented with Pivot Tables, give them a try. I can guarantee that you will amaze yourself with how simple it is to manipulate your data.

The Bad
Pivot tables are not all things for all applications. Though powerful, they have some odd quirks, (such as resizing your columns when you change an entry), and often need to be rebuilt if your data significantly changes (the good news is, of course, that it is easy do so…).

The Ugly
Let’s face it, pivot tables are Ugly! Oh, sure, you can apply one of the stock formatting schemes that haven’t changed in ten years, or design your own, (beware, it may be lost when you update or pivot data), but it is still ugly. Now, this may not be terribly important to you if you are just doing some “quick and dirty” analysis, but it may not be something you want to show the board of directors.

Bottom Line
Though not perfect tool, pivot tables will often save you many hours of analysis time, and the other great news is that it truly is easy. Go on, give it a try!

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