Reports are no longer the static printouts they used to be. People expect to interact with their reports, viewing various different perspectives to help form deeper understanding. How such reports are developed and delivered helps everyone in the value chain develop a better understanding of the new reporting process.
Let’s look at this another way…
Do you find yourself wishing you could look at the information in a different way, from a different perspective when reading a report?
You’re a sales manager looking at a sales report that shows performance for each of your salespeople with full product summary. Great! You can see what products each of your salespeople sold and pick out which they sold most! This helps you adjust available inventory, provide more sales support in the right places for the right products, and more.
But then it occurs to you. Which products performed best overall? Which should purchasing increase order quantities on? Which should they stop purchasing and let sell out because they’re performing so poorly. And what does that look like regionally? Are some regions focused on specific products while others sell more of others? And how do those sales rise and fall seasonally?
Everyone can relate to these sales questions, and its reasonable to bet that sales managers reading this have already come up with several more ways of looking at sales reporting. Looks like they’re going to need a whole lot more reports!
Fortunately not. Today those wishing to look at valuable information from several different perspectives can interact with their reports to do so. With a click they can switch from sales by product to sales by salesperson, or aggregate sales by region, or seasonality and more.
Perhaps the best example of a tool that enables this kind of perspective-shifting is the Pivot Table first introduced in Lotus Improv by visionary developer Pito Salas in 1986 and then made popular in Microsoft Excel 5 starting back in 1994.
According to Microsoft, “You can use a PivotTable to summarize, analyze, explore, and present summary data. PivotCharts complement PivotTables by adding visualizations to the summary data in a PivotTable, and allow you to easily see comparisons, patterns, and trends. Both PivotTables and PivotCharts enable you to make informed decisions about critical data in your enterprise. You can also connect to external data sources such as SQL Server tables, SQL Server Analysis Services cubes, Azure Marketplace, Office Data Connection (.odc) files, XML files, Access databases, and text files to create PivotTables, or use existing PivotTables to create new tables.”
That’s a wide variety of data sources you can interact with using pivot tables, which raises the question of how you are able to interact with your data.
Interactions made possible by pivot tables include:
- Querying large amounts of data in many user-friendly ways.
- Subtotaling and aggregating numeric data, summarizing data by categories and subcategories, and creating custom calculations and formulas.
- Expanding and collapsing levels of data to focus your results and drilling down to details from the summary data for areas of interest to you.
- Moving rows to columns or columns to rows (or “pivoting”) to see different summaries of the source data.
- Filtering, sorting, grouping, and conditionally formatting the most useful and interesting subset of data enabling you to focus on just the information you want.
- Presenting concise, attractive, and annotated online or printed reports.
“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”
While pivot tables are a very useful tool for those who need to read and analyze reports regularly, learning how to use such a powerful toolset is no small feat. There’s plenty to learn
Fortunately, the learning comes in two categories; learning how to build pivot tables and learning how to use pivot tables.
In many organizations, the building of pivot-table-based reports is requested by executives and other users from an information systems or development department who are expert in pivot table construction. This development team connects all the requisite data sources, builds the foundational tables, and fashions any special macros or other controls needed to facilitate operation of the pivot tables. Often, however, the results returned to the requestor must be re-submitted for revision due to missing features or data.
Containers for pivot tables
The maturation of the cloud computing era has brought with it the use of containers to facilitate the transport of applications as well as data across networks. Similarly, containers are now available for development departments to deliver requested pivot tables. These containers feature an improved toolset designed specifically to enable any user to interact freely and productively with their data. MercuryBI is a leading provider of pivot table container technology. Regular users find it far easier to view their data from multiple perspectives, ask “what if” and similar questions, and get far more done far faster than they ever could with a printed report.
To learn more about MercuryBI, call us at 212-956-7567.