A pivot table is a data processing tool used to query, organize and summarize data or information between spreadsheets, tables or databases. Dragging and dropping fields into a pivot table facilitates rotational, or pivotal, structural changes.
The generic pivot table term is used by many companies and software vendors. PivotTable, Microsoft branded and trademarked version, is used in most Excel products.
A pivot table is useful when analyzing a large amount of data, as it allows users to apply specific criteria to summarize, organize and reorganize data tables and create reports.
For example, when a store manager reviews the sales of a specific item over a six-month period, he must sift through many pages of relevant and irrelevant data. A pivot table, however, simplifies this process by automatically counting, summarizing and sorting data. Summarized data may then be used to create a report tailored to the item's activity within the specified six-month parameter, reducing data output and table columns and rows. This process may be used to accommodate various data requirements.