Pivot tables

In this course lesson we just check to see that you know how to create a pivot table. If you haven’t had much experience with pivot tables before, we’ve got some straight-forward instructions to help get you started.

Please don’t be scared of pivot tables

Pivot tables can be a big subject (there have been books written just on pivot tables) so all we do in this course lesson is check that you can get yourself started with pivot tables. There’s a lot to pivot tables though (try typing “Excel power pivot” into your favourite search engine). We’ve seen pivot tables used most extensively by companies that need a ‘patch’ for inadequate management information systems. But for day to day financial modelling we don’t think you should be intimidated by them – they’re just a way of presenting some of your data neatly.

Pivot tables do a nice job of presenting data

The main reason why we think you might use a pivot table is because of the way they present data. Remember though, before you go straight to pivot tables, that you have a few other choices in Excel’s standard functions. If you want a whole table produced then, sure, go for the pivot table. But if it’s just one key result out of the table you want, we think you should probably be thinking of one of Excel’s standard functions. If you wanted you could use an array formula but the conditional Sumproduct formula or a Sumifs would also do the job for you.

Look before you leap into Excel pivot tables

So our recommendation from the financial modelling course is just to pause and think for a second before you climb into pivot tables. If you want all your data presented and presented nicely (and if you’re surrounded by colleagues who love their pivot tables) then, sure, a pivot table seems like the right choice. If you’re looking to filter or sort data for one or just a few results, you may find that something like Sumifs provides a shorter neater solution. There’s a lot to be said for those regular Excel formulas!