Small Business Development Center

Simplify Your Life With the Power of Pivot Tables

Simplify Your Life With the Power of Pivot Tables

If only I would have known...

Thinking back to my undergraduate degree, I am haunted by long nights of relentless number crunching and data analysis. As an Agricultural Economics major, my capstone project required me to do an in-depth Econometric analysis. Given my background and interest in the industry, I chose to do it on the United States Dairy Industry, with data from 1910-2010.

Whew! If only I would have known how difficult that project was going to be, I may have chosen to major in basket weaving or puppetry (yes, it actually exists).

However, as I have progressed with my Excel capabilities, I have discovered the holy grail for data analysis and information management: the Pivot Table.

pivot table image

Pivot Tables allow you to extract importance from complex data sets, by arranging them in a way that is easy to analyze and summarize. Although Pivot Tables may seem daunting to many, they are one of the most powerful features that Microsoft Excel has to offer, and after some practice, they can shave hours off even the simplest of projects. If only I would have known.

Fast forward to 2017, and as my professional career has progressed, I have begun to use Pivot Tables to assist with business management decisions.

Several data-driven examples where I found Pivot Tables have come in handy in the work place are:

  1. Identifying trends, including seasonality, in sales across different markets.
  2. Identifying how key business drivers affect company profitability.
  3. Employee time tracking and payroll decisions.
  4. Identifying top customers and products.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg when considering the capabilities of Pivot Table analysis. Incorporating Slicers into your analysis will help you filter your data and only see what you really want, while a Pivot Chart helps you visually make sense of your data and how it affects your business.

Lastly, once your Pivot Table is set up, you can continue to add data to your data set and the Pivot Table will refresh and stay up-to-date. This makes the majority of the legwork up front, leaving more time down the road for your other business projects and/or sipping some amazing Bellingham beers with your friends on a Friday night. If only I would have known!

I have included links to several online trainings and articles that introduce you to Pivot Tables, and how they can be applicable to running and understanding your business.

A great “How-to” for creating and analyzing a Pivot Table, I definitely suggest watching the LinkedIn training video towards the top of the page.

Step-by-step instructions on how to incorporate and utilize a Pivot Chart within your Pivot Table.

How to use slicers to filter your Pivot Table data.

An article from Investopedia on the importance of Excel in business, which includes the relevancy and usefulness of Pivot Tables.

A quick article with suggestions on using Pivot Tables as a Small Business.


Authored by: Shane Reed