Pivot Tables

July 27th 2013

Last month I spoke at MADPASS on Pivot tables and self-service BI. The presentation went well. Pivot tables are a key part of true self-service Business Intelligence in a Microsoft-based BI organization. They basically allow you unfettered access to all the data in a cube while working completely within Excel. You don't have to learn MDX or SQL and you don't have to learn an entirely new tool (such as Report Builder). Anyone in the organization, once they know the basics of pivot tables, can use pivot tables to extract meaningful data from the cube. (And the good news is that the basics of pivot tables are pretty straightforward).

Even if you don't have Microsoft SSAS cubes in your organization, pivot tables are still worth learning. For starters, Power Pivot is a tool that comes free with Excel and is extremely powerful (as long as you know what a pivot table is). Pivot tables are great for quickly getting a sense of a mass of data without much work.

Indeed, ever since I did my presentation, I've been turning to pivot tables more and more. Instead of changing my SQL statement criteria 12 different times to learn more about my data, I now just copy & paste all the data from SSMS into Excel, make a quick pivot table and be on my way. Instead of filtering or using SUM in Excel, I make a pivot table. It's fast, it's flexible and it's easy.

If you missed my presentation and are thinking "Aww man, that's something I should know more about", not to fear. I'm doing the presentation again in a couple of weeks at FoxPASS in Appleton. Special thanks to Jes Schultz Borland for daring to invite me to speak.

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