How to prepare Excel data for Pivot Tables

Supriti Tripathy

15th May'21
How to prepare Excel data for Pivot Tables | OpenGrowth

Pivot tables are an excellent find to analyze large amounts of data in Excel and spreadsheets. Not only do they summarize huge data, but also they give a clear picture of the statistics which makes it easy for analysis and reporting. It saves a great amount of time and resources in doing so.

But to create a pivot table, it is important to organize the data and structure it. Here we will be looking at steps to prepare Excel data for pivot tables so that any inaccuracy or gap in the information can be ruled out. We will also understand how to organize the source data in the right structure and the importance of it. And we will convert the data into tables for ease of access to information to smoothen the further process.





A Quick guide to prepare source data

Step 1: Components of a table

  • Make sure you know how to structure your data using the table format
  • Field – The columns that are used to define the values stored in rows.
  • Header – Every column must be given a unique heading for clarity of the information stored.
  • Records- A collection of all the data below the header is called a Data record.
  • Record set- The information in the row that has values in the fields.


Step 2: Column category

  • Assign the correct category to your columns.
  • On the Home tab, from the Numbers group, choose the category from the drop-down.
  • You can also right-click on the column—Format cellsNumber.
  • Specify the category of values in the column field.


Step 3: Refrain from using any formulas like subtotal, average, etc in the source data as the Pivot table will do the calculation work.


Step 4: For the fields which are supposed to have Nil value, mention “N/A” or “Nil” but do not leave it blank. If any cell is blank, an error message is displayed in the result. Also, the shortcut key Shift + Down Arrow key helps in navigating blank cells easily.


Step 5: If there is any duplicate or repetitive data unless legit, address it to avoid errors in the result.


Step 6: Source data should be free of any filters as it can be used within the pivot table.


Step 7: Cell grouping can be done within the pivot table. Hence ungroup any cells while structuring source data. Click on Data—Outline—Ungroup.


Step 8: Finally, format your data as a table for a clear structure. Select all the values entered, go to Home---Styles---Format as Table, and get the organized form to create an error-free Pivot Table.



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A gap in structuring source data

Let us assume that we have received a report that is much different from the steps mentioned above to be credentialed for a source data structure.

Example: Given in the table format, is 5 different types of products (in one column Product Type) and their usage in different cities are given in 5 different columns with their respective numbers. (Like for city A, product 1-5 orders are shown in one column and so on).

Well, this type of data is in summary format, which creates a gap. We use Pivot tables so that we get the result as a summarized version of the source data. The above example will only lead to redundancy if we try to plot the structure in a Pivot table. It is hereby, important to receive the source report in the correct format.

Also, it’s the specialty of Pivot Tables to sort, filter, and summarize the data down to every detail. It is an advanced way of organizing data.



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Importance of Format of source data as a table (the last step)

Each field of a table determines an attribute of values that it stores. For example, a column header that says the region will give the name of the place. This can be repetitive for certain record sets. A table represents the data in the best form to be accessed for further analysis. Once structured, it makes the work with the Pivot table much easier as the source data is complete, clear, and crisp. Helps in assortment and creation of Pivot becomes a cakewalk.



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A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.