Velixo Excel Tips: Why you should be creating a pivot table to analyze data.
As companies continue to collect an ever-expanding amount of data, they’re actively seeking more ways to derive additional value from it. Companies of all sizes are investigating new analytic tools to tackle an array of business goals. However, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel with new tools, because you already have one that can do the job. The next step is being able to use it to it’s full functionality.
So what can Excel do to help?
Excel is an easy, well-known, cheap and versatile tool which can be used to create a variety of reports and spreadsheets. By leveraging the pre existing asset of Excel, your business will be able to get more out of it’s data.
What are Pivot Tables?
Pivot Tables are a great way to summarize, analyze, explore, and present your data, and you can create them with just a few clicks. Pivot Tables are highly flexible and can be quickly adjusted depending on how you need to display your results. You can also create Pivot Charts based on Pivot Tables that will automatically update when your Pivot Tables do.
Note: Some of the screen shots in this article were taken in Excel 2016, so while the view may be different for some, the functionality is the same.
For example, here’s a simple list of household expenses, and a Pivot Table based on it:
Before you get started:
- Your data should be organized in a tabular format, and not have any blank rows or columns. Ideally, you can use an Excel table like in our example above.
- Tables are a great Pivot Table data source, because rows added to a table are automatically included in the Pivot Table when you refresh the data, and any new columns will be included in the Pivot Table Fields List. Otherwise, you need to either manually update the data source range, or use a dynamic named range formula.
- Data types in columns should be the same. For example, you shouldn’t mix dates and text in the same column.
- Pivot Tables work on a snapshot of your data, called the cache, so your actual data doesn’t get altered in any way.
Create a Pivot Table
If you have limited experience with Pivot Tables, or are not sure how to get started, a Recommended Pivot Table is a good choice. When you use this feature, Excel determines a meaningful layout by matching the data with the most suitable areas in the Pivot Table. This helps give you a starting point for additional experimentation. After a recommended Pivot Table is created, you can explore different orientations and rearrange fields to achieve your specific results. The Recommended Pivot Tables feature was added in Excel 2013, so if you have an earlier version, follow the instructions below for how to manually create a Pivot Table instead.
You can also download our interactive Make your first Pivot Table tutorial.
Recommended Pivot Table
- Click a cell in the source data or table range.
- Go to Insert > Tables > Recommended Pivot Table.
- Excel analyzes your data and presents you with several options, like in this example using the household expense data.
- Select the Pivot Table that looks best to you and press OK. Excel will create a Pivot Table on a new sheet, and display the Pivot Table Fields List.
Manually create a Pivot Table
- Click a cell in the source data or table range.
- Go to Insert > Tables > Pivot Table.
- Excel will display the Create Pivot Table dialog with your range or table name selected. In this case, we’re using a table called “tbl_Household Expenses”.
- In the Choose where you want the Pivot Table report to be placed section, select New Worksheet, or Existing Worksheet. For Existing Worksheet, you’ll need to select both the worksheet and the cell where you want the Pivot Table placed.
- If you want to include multiple tables or data sources in your Pivot Table, click the Add this data to the Data Model check box.
- Click OK, and Excel will create a blank Pivot Table, and display the Pivot Table Fields list.
Working with the Pivot Table Fields list
In the Field Name area at the top, select the check box for any field you want to add to your Pivot Table. By default, non-numeric fields are added to the Row area, date and time fields are added to the Column area, and numeric fields are added to the Values area. You can also manually drag-and-drop any available item into any of the Pivot Table fields, or if you no longer want an item in your Pivot Table, simply drag it out of the Fields list or uncheck it. Being able to rearrange Field items is one of the Pivot Table features that makes it so easy to quickly change its appearance.
Pivot Table Values
- Summarize Values By
By default, Pivot Table fields that are placed in the Values area will be displayed as a SUM. If Excel interprets your data as text, it will be displayed as a COUNT. This is why it’s so important to make sure you don’t mix data types for value fields. You can change the default calculation by first clicking on the arrow to the right of the field name, then select the Value Field Settings option.
Next, change the calculation in the Summarize Values By section. Note that when you change the calculation method, Excel will automatically append it in the Custom Name section, like “Sum of Field Name”, but you can change it. If you click the Number Format button, you can change the number format for the entire field.
Tip: Since the changing the calculation in the Summarize Values By section will change the Pivot Table field name, it’s best not to rename your Pivot Table fields until you’re done setting up your Pivot Table. One trick is to use Find & Replace (Ctrl+H) >Find what > “Sum of“, then Replace with > leave blank to replace everything at once instead of manually retyping.
- Show Values As
Instead of using a calculation to summarize the data, you can also display it as a percentage of a field. In the following example, we changed our household expense amounts to display as a % of Grand Total instead of the sum of the values.
Once you’ve opened the Value Field Setting dialog, you can make your selections from the Show Values As tab.
- Display a value as both a calculation and percentage.
Simply drag the item into the Values section twice, then set the Summarize Values By and Show Values As options for each one.
Refreshing Pivot Tables
If you add new data to your Pivot Table data source, any Pivot Tables that were built on that data source need to be refreshed. To refresh just one Pivot Table you can right-click anywhere in the Pivot Table range, then select Refresh. If you have multiple Pivot Tables, first select any cell in any Pivot Table, then on the Ribbon go to Pivot Table Tools > Analyze > Data > click the arrow under the Refresh button and select Refresh All.
Deleting a Pivot Table
If you created a Pivot Table and decide you no longer want it, you can simply select the entire Pivot Table range, then press Delete. It won’t have any affect on other data or Pivot Tables or charts around it. If your Pivot Table is on a separate sheet that has no other data you want to keep, deleting that sheet is a fast way to remove the Pivot Table
We hope you found this article helpful!