Excel Tips

Tips from The Accounting Trenches: The Power of Pivot Tables

Ever stare at worksheets containing very large data sets of data and have no idea where to start? How do you break down your data to extract what you need in a meaningful way? Welcome to the power of the pivot table. A pivot table allows you to take the systems data dump and quickly organize it for meaningful analysis. And even with the grandest of accounting and finance software systems — and the fanciest standard reports — pivot tables are easy to create and invaluable to your financial reporting and accounting.

What are the benefits?

Before we dive in to the steps requires to create your table, here’s a quick list of the benefits pivot tables provide:

  • Easy to use
  • Flexible
  • Gives the ability to sort and re-sort information in a summarized format
  • Provides data analyses that can be identified and updated easily
  • Efficient in creation of reports
  • Can be used as a tool to help management make key decisions quickly

Now let’s get started!

Step 1: Organize Data in a Tabular Format

As an example, let’s use data that was extracted from an accounting system for an ice cream shop. The spreadsheet below shows gross sales by quarter, by product, across two locations. To start, make sure your data is organized in a tabular format and does not have any blank rows or columns, as follows.

Step 2: Select Your Range

Next, click any single cell in the data sheet. Click on the “Insert” tab, then click “Pivot Table.”

A dialog box will appear called “Create Pivot Table.” You will see that Excel has automatically selected the range for you to now create the pivot table. Select “OK.”

Step 3: Select Your Fields

The below pivot table field list will then appear. Select and drag the different fields into the filter, column, rows and values in order to achieve your objective with your pivot table.

Another Example to Follow

In the below example, let’s say we need to get the Gross Sales of each product, by quarter, for two locations. You would do the following:

  • Drag Quarter to the Columns areas, Product to the Row areas, Gross Sales to the Values area and State to Report Filter.
    • In the “Values” area you have the option to sum, count, etc.  You might have to edit this (mine doesn’t always show up as sum).
    • The “Filters” gives you a drop-down menu so you can toggle between all or a selection of states.

So there you have it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by learning how to create and use pivot tables. I hope you find this everyday tip useful.

For more quick and easy Excel solutions “from the trenches,” be sure to check out the following:

We also invite you to subscribe to Insights for up-to-date perspectives on finance best practices!

subscribe to CFO insights

Would you like to leverage more advanced capabilities in Excel that can make an immediate impact on your organization? Keep in mind that 8020 Consulting is here to help. Just click on the contact button below to ask us a question or learn more.

Categorized in:

similar articles

Learn to think and approach problems like our financial consultants.

Financial Systems

Key Questions When Implementing a Global Consolidation and Reporting System

This blog is based upon my previous experience managing the global roll out of SAP Business Process and Consolidation (SAP BPC) for a multinational company. The company I worked for was a $7B IT Distributor that was organized along four geographical regions: North America, LATAM, EMEA, and Asia Pacific. In our case, the company was… View Article

December 5, 2019David Krassin

Business Advisory

How to Create an Internal Business Plan for a New Company Initiative

Business plans for start-up companies have become mainstays in the business world. But more and more company initiatives and projects have begun to require business plans as a way of validating prudent investments and company spend as maturing businesses look for innovation within to drive future revenue growth. A time may come in a business… View Article

December 3, 2019Lester Robert

Financial Planning & Analysis

Tips from the Trenches: Salesforce Sales Forecasting

At the end of 2012, I joined a Finance team supporting the International TV Distribution sales group of a major entertainment company. As the year was coming to an end, Sales strongly voiced its frustration regarding the extremely manual and archaic sales tool that was available for sales forecasting. Their homegrown tool was created many… View Article

November 19, 2019Lizzette Acuña

See All