Building pivot tables requires sophisticated Excel spreadsheet skills that most financial experts likely don’t have. While training is available, here is how to engage with a subcontracted expert to develop a pivot table system that truly serves your needs. until you have time for training, this is an excellent way to reduce your time-to-value.

There’s a great analogy that’s familiar to everyone and helps to illustrate how financial experts can work with Excel spreadsheet wizards to develop highly useful PivotTables.

  • Some people learn how to drive and are satisfied with that
  • Some people want to know where all the parts of a car engine go and what they do
  • Some people feel a deep need to understand the physics of internal combustion

It is altogether possible that some of the people who understand the engine and the science don’t know how to drive.

Similarly, there are many people who are information workers. Some are even financial experts with deep knowledge of how the numbers all work together. These are the drivers and the mechanics of financial activity in our businesses.

The physics wonks are like the Excel experts. They’ve spent as much time studying the extensive capabilities of the most popular spreadsheet product as accountants spend learning about finance and physicists spend learning about cold fusion.

When a driver needs a car

When a typical driver or even a mechanic needs a car, they go to a company that builds them. That company employs scientists who constantly endeavor to improve the performance of their company’s vehicles. The point is that few mechanics build cars from the ground up, though some do, and it is the rare driver who has built a car at all.

Similarly, there are people who drive Excel around doing simple tasks to derive quick answers. Perhaps they even build ledgers for various financial functions. Financial experts may take this somewhat further, understanding the many integrated functions available in Excel, like the time value or net present value of money, or the internal rate of return. They can use these functions to achieve even more sophisticated solutions because they understand what financial functions mean.

Then there are PivotTables

Say the word “macro” or “PivotTable” to an information worker or financial expert and watch them go pale. Very few of them have ever even attempted to use these highly advanced capabilities of their favorite spreadsheet software. For the most part, they seldom need to even think about them.

So, what happens when a typical or even advanced financial user does when they realize they have a need that calls for a PivotTable? Beyond the shaking and perspiration….

In larger corporations, these typical users turn to the Information Systems or similar department to request that someone help them create the PivotTable they need.

How’s THAT going to work?

Clearly, most financial information workers have some level of understanding of how spreadsheets work. Similarly, spreadsheet experts have some familiarity with financial data. These familiarities will create a connection between the financial person and the spreadsheet person.

What the financial person needs to bring to the table is a thorough understanding of what they need, how they need to see their data, and how some of the variables relate to each other. You might expect that the spreadsheet expert will be doing some significant training, but often the reverse is true. The financial person needs to explain the relationships between various data to the spreadsheet person so they can construct valuable and useful Pivot views the financial person needs.

Anticipate that you may not be able to convey all the complexities of your data and the various ways you want to look at it in one session. Often the spreadsheet expert will come back with questions before they start building the PivotTable for you. If you’ve done your best to describe your needed views and the role of each column and row of data, you’ll enjoy a more than satisfying result fairly quickly.

For more information on making it easy for users to navigate PivotTables built by experts, call 212-956-7567.

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