Author: Wayne L Winston
Publisher: Microsoft Press, 2014
Audience: Excel users who want to analyze data
Reviewer: Kay Ewbank
Excel for data analysis - PowerPivot, Power View and Pivot tables demystified.
This is an updated edition of an earlier book covering similar material for Excel 2010. Wayne Winston is a professor at Indiana University’s business school, and I suspect the book is his university course. In fact, the author says in his introduction that the book is an attempt to make his classes available to everyone.
The format of the book is that each chapter starts with a list of the questions that will be answered within the chapter. The main chapter content then explains a single topic, and the chapter ends with answers to the questions posed at the beginning.
There are 87 chapters, and you’ll be pleased to hear I’m not going to go through them all. The main point is that if there’s something in Excel that you could classify as ‘being to do with data’, Winston has at least a chapter about it.
Each chapter is short, eight or nine pages on average. The topics covered are very specific – a single function or concept, so you get a chapter on circular references, or IF functions. Some topics take several chapters – there are nine chapters on the Excel Solver and how to use it, for example.
If you know the earlier title, the new edition includes coverage of Flash Fill; explanations of the new functions in Excel 2013 (Sheet, Sheets, FormulaText, and IsFormula); and using PivotTables based on other PivotTables. There are explanations of the new Timeline feature for PivotTables, and a description of Excel 2013’s Data Model. PowerPivot and Power View are also covered.
I liked this book, but the author doesn’t pull his punches. All those years teaching analysts from Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. Army and Department of Defense show, in the pace at which he moves the material along. He does expect you to do some work yourself, and the answers at the end of some chapters cover the ideas but not necessarily the exact questions posed at the beginning.
Essentially, the book is about teaching you how to carry out business analysis and how to find business answers rather than teaching Excel; that’s just the tool used for the analysis.
Winston obviously isn’t a fan of top tips and call-out boxes; the explanations flow, but you move through the chapters without interruption. Whether you think this a drawback or an advantage depends on your viewpoint – I liked it. This attitude shows through particularly clearly in the chapters on using graphs to illustrate analysis – the book is all in black and white, and the graphs are very much just a way to show the data rather than something pretty to make the page look nice.
Overall, I thought this was a really good book. The author obviously has a deep understanding of data analysis, and he gives you every opportunity to share in that knowledge.