Excel users can all pivot

So after the third person in a week stopped me in the corridor while I was walking from the coffee shop to lunch etc. to interrupt me from my clearly very busy and important schedule only to ask me how to do calculations on data in a pivot table, I started thinking, what is it with you people?  are you all victims of some nefarious pivot table pyramid scheme or something?

I have a theory, tell me what you reckon.  So Office 2007 dramatically improved pivot tables and charts and you know, what with the ribbon being God's gift to UI design, people can actually find more advanced capabilities.  So the go-getters in the organisation have gone-got themselves skilled up and found that OMG they finally understand how a pivot table works after all these years.  Off they scurry to their nearest database of chaos flexing their new business intelligence muscles.  Before you can say Online Analytical Programming, they've churned out their uber-spreadsheet showing how 42 is not in fact the meaning of life after all but was all down to some deeply mistaken marketing targeting or something.  With glee they send it on to everyone else in their virtual teams, most of whom are rather further down the adoption curve.

So excel Luddite receives the meaningoflife.xlsx pivot table from their deliriously smug colleague and thinks 'hey this is actually pretty cool, I wonder what would happen if I tweaked this to find out my equally interesting query'  and they set about it with the only tools they know - formulae, cut and paste and maybe the use of $ in referencing cells.  Ends in tears.. diddlydo you know the scenario because of course the big fundamental difference with pivots is that you need to add calculated fields into the pivot if you want to do this.  See my "pivot tables they arent that hard" post on this if you are feeling chastised for not knowing about this.

So the ribbon causes a tipping point for new ways of using the products.  I heard that another example was the watermark capability in Word - you know, that faint diagonal across the page that says 'draft version do not trust anything in this' etc. Not a new feature in 2007 - or in 2003 for that matter but sudden spike of usage since 2007 with lots of people hailing it as a fab new feature.  It's not new, it's just new to them as the ribbon surfaced it. 

What's interesting to me is the group-think factor as it becomes cool to be able to use the product and not nerdy - this has to do with results, with real benefits, people being able to do stuff that matters that they couldn't or couldn't be bothered to do before.  What other trendy new capabilities have you (re)discovered because of the ribbon?

Comments (1)

  1. Hi Darren,

    For anyone interested in learning how to use PivotTables in Excel 2007, I’m presenting a webcast on September 27 at 9:00AM Pacific US time. The registration URL is:



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