I am sure anyone that has played with Excel – and that’s just about everyone – has come across Pivot tables, and there will be users reading this that use Pivot tables ranging in skills and understanding from knowing what they are, to doing some seriously fancy stuff. Microsoft have now also introduced Power Pivot as a free part of Office 2010. All of these parts now make up the total package which Excel offers when it comes to assisting people to get more and easier access to information, and I believe reflects Microsoft’s thinking about where they should be placing their long term Business Intelligence bets, but I digress.
Whether all this rich and powerful functionality in Excel is relevant for you now or in the future is really a very subjective discussion. Just yesterday I had another discussion about Power Pivot being the “BI for the Masses” tool which is a claim Microsoft will make but I find this ominously similar to predictions that were made about Performance Point Server which was ultimately still-born as a viable solution for the market and rapidly laid to rest. So unless you know your SQL, understand relational databases – basically unless you know your way around your data and how you access the database – then Power Pivot probably isn’t for you, and this would account for the vast majority of information consumers in the small and mid-sized market.
However regular Excel tables, and their more powerful and agile bigger brother Pivot tables, are way more relevant for all users, across all businesses of any size. If you are an Excel enthusiast, regardless of your proficiency level, and were wondering about the difference between Excel tables and Excel Pivot Tables, then I would recommend this short synopsis from the Microsoft blog.