“It all depends on how you look at it…”

We’ve all heard, and probably used that phrase ourselves many times. It implies that there are many perspectives from which one can look at an issue. Often, the issue is subjective and perhaps even personal. For example, someone who provides something might have one perspective on price, while someone consuming that thing has quite a different perspective.

Perspectives on Information

There are also objective perspectives. Take the example of an Excel spreadsheet containing a list of all sales transactions for a major corporation with many locations over the period of a year. That’s a lot of data, far too enormous for anyone to simply review directly. What they need to have is a way to summarize that data to create useful information that will serve to support analysis and decision-making.

A Vice President of Sales might want to look at a regional summary showing how their locations in the Eastern US compared to Western and Central US. Financial planners might want to see how the company performed month by month to detect seasonal changes and their impact upon sales. Sales managers might want to view sales performance by each salesperson to see who their best and worst producers are. You can readily imagine many other possibilities of perspectives to view summarized and structured data from.


PivotTables allow you to create various views of large complex data sets. They may only view portions of the data set, or the entire table. They are only used to view different perspectives on that source data set, or multiple source data sets, and not to change them in any way. When PivotTables are constructed, they are first connected to all the required data sources which may include large spreadsheets, SQL Server databases, XML files, and more.

Fundamentally they are used to reorganize, calculate, summarize, and view data.

Another characteristic of PivotTables deserving mention is how much easier it makes it to reorganize the data into various perspectives. There are many powerful capabilities in Excel that require selecting, sorting, filtering, sub-totaling and other functions. The availability of such capabilities doesn’t mean any of them are easy to use. Properly configuring each of them can be complicated making it easy to commit errors. PivotTables replace the need to perform various modifications of spreadsheets, track and update each version when new data is added, changed, or deleted.

When a PivotTable is developed users can select the perspective they wish to see from a list of available perspectives. They need not perform any functions or manipulate spreadsheets in any way. Also, PivotTable Perspectives provide focus, only displaying fields relevant to the given use case they were built for.

PivotTables as Interactive Reports

Information workers don’t and should not want to invest their time and focus on manipulating spreadsheets. They want to consult summarized and focused reports on the results of their data.

Traditional reports are static. Data is sorted, summarized, and the results printed. Reports are generally not changeable.

PivotTables are easily changeable and responsive to various needs bringing tremendous ability to interactively explore your data.

Delivering PivotTables

In many cases, the responsibility for actually building PivotTables is assigned to an IT, IS, or other technical department. A major dimension of their responsibility is to deliver PivotTables that users can readily and easily interact with. MercuryBI provides them with the tools they need to make PivotTables far easier to navigate and explore. Learn more about these tools by calling at 212.956.7567.

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