Summary: Commonly found in spreadsheet programs (like Excel), pivot tables are interactive tables that automatically extract, organize, and summarize data. However, while pivot table reporting is almost synonymous with Excel, is it really the right tool for the job?
If end-user reporting is a burden on your IT department, you’re certainly not alone. The question is…how can you reduce the amount of time your IT department spends creating end-user reports?
One way to fix the problem: Create canned reports with run-time options for end users. This lets your users quickly access the data they need, while reducing the time your IT department spends creating reports.
Here’s how it works: Your IT department creates the initial reports with run-time filters for the users. The users can select which data to display, or filter their data however they wish when they run the report. With the right run-time filters, users can use a single report in many different ways.
Pivot tables are great tools for spotting hidden details and trends in a sea of data. One pivot table lets you quickly examine nearly any aspect of your data. Also, unlike static reports, the user determines what parts of the data to analyze.
The big question with pivot tables is this: Which pivot table option is best for my company? Right now, there are three main pivot table options: Google Docs, MS Excel, and database-driven web pivot tables. How do they compare? We’ve put together a handy one-page guide which explains the differences between each pivot table option. I hope you find it useful.
One of the biggest keys to Business Intelligence is simplicity. Do you know what happens when you give users difficult BI apps? They revert to whatever they’re already comfortable using, which is usually Excel. Apparently, BI software in general isn’t very easy, as research shows that spreadsheets are the most commonly used tool for Business Intelligence.
The truth is, this isn’t such a big problem if users only use spreadsheets for their own analytics, and aren’t trying to share or distribute them throughout the company. Unfortunately, that’s what usually happens. Users start using Excel for Business Intelligence, and then distribute those spreadsheets to others in their company. This can actually turn into a dangerous problem, for a few reasons:
A couple of weeks ago, Google announced some big news: Google Docs now has pivot tables! I know what you’re thinking: How is this different than other pivot table options, such as those found in Excel? Are they right for business? I’d like to help you answer these questions.
First, how does this differ from other pivot table options? Before we answer that question, we must first answer this question: What are the other options? Before Google pivot tables came around, there were 2 main approaches to pivot tables: Excel pivot tables and database-driven web pivot tables (like those created with m-Power). With Google’s foray into pivot tables, we now have 3 legitimate pivot table options. So, which one is best for your business? The best way to answer that question is to take a look at how each option compares in 5 key areas:
Some people request them from the IT department. Others lock themselves in their offices for a day or two and go crazy with spreadsheets. Others delegate the task. Whatever the method, everyone has a process for creating business reports.
But, what if your process wastes time? What if the hours you spend running reports or analyzing data are unnecessary?
Here’s a good test: Does it take longer than 5 minutes? If so, you’re wasting time. Within a matter of seconds, you should be able to see any piece of data you wish to see. For example, applications like this interactive report or this web pivot table report give you a high level view of data, but let you “slice-and-dice” it however you want.
Most business owners and executives have one thing in common: They hate surprises. Why? Because they’re rarely good. They’re never, “Surprise! Profits just doubled!” Instead, surprises come right out of the blue and smack you in the side of the head.
The best way to avoid business surprises? Monitor your data. Make sure you know what’s going on in all aspects of your business. Make sure nothing sneaks up on you. Make sure you catch those small problems before they balloon into full blown surprises. The funny thing about surprises…you don’t see them until it’s too late.
The best way to monitor your data? Use a reporting tool. Actually, let me clarify: Use a good reporting tool. There are many reporting tools out there, but not many good reporting tools. So, what makes a good reporting tool?
Pivot tables are great analytical tools—they sum up large amounts of data and let you view it in just about any way possible. More importantly, they help you quickly analyze business information, discover trends, and make better and more informed decisions.
Pivot tables are typically found in spreadsheet software, such as Excel. Spreadsheet-based pivot tables are great as single-user tools, but you run into problems if you want to distribute, share, or let multiple users alter or view one spreadsheet. Also, if security or data accuracy are necessities, spreadsheet-based pivot tables aren’t ideal.
I’d like to introduce you to a relatively new concept: Pervasive business intelligence. It’s not some great new buzzword to throw around at meetings, it’s a truly actionable concept that could save time and money for your company.
The idea of pervasive BI is simple: Business intelligence should permeate throughout your business. Real-time data specific to your needs should be at your fingertips all the time. The value is obvious—Quick decisions, increased productivity, better efficiency, etc…