Since Excel PivotTables can connect to Analysis Services cubes, and are essentially free to most companies, they are often the default client tool. Where the business need is fairly simple the core functionality may suffice, however even in the newer versions of Office the PivotTable lacks much of the sophistication and flexibility of a dedicated tool like XLCubed. Cube connected Pivot Tables have a number of restrictions and issues which XLCubed addresses, and the business benefit is measured in terms of significant time saving, better insight through improved query and analytic capabilities, and enhanced data visualisation and dashboard delivery. Some larger companies have written custom OLAP PivotTable extensions to address specific issues or functionality gaps in PivotTables, but this can lead to ongoing support headaches. XLCubed addresses users PivotTable frustrations at multiple levels. Some of the key reasons our customers use XLCubed as an alternative to PivotTables include:

  • Pivot Table 'islands' - they have little awareness of the rest of Excel, or each other, making it difficult to build 'joined up' reports. XLCubed has flexible selection dialogs, but can also reference the content of an Excel range. Users can type a filter into a cell and have the grid (pivot table enhancement) refresh when the driving cell changes. This approach works with one or many cells and allows users to quickly reference an existing list of items held in an Excel range rather than have to search for them individually. 
  • User Calculations - Users are often frustrated by the limitations on adding calculations to olap or data connected pivot tables. XLCubed supports adding standard Excel formulae into cube connected grids (pivot table upgrade). Users can simply add a new column or row and type any Excel formula, including Vlookups. The formula is dynamic and will grow and shrink as needed with the data volumes.
  • Poor use of cube hierarchies - Hierarchies are a key component of cubes and pivot tables limit their effective use in reporting.
  • Performance problems - Pivot Tables can generate inefficient mdx, leading to slow queries and frustrated users. In some cases using an XLCubed Grid as a 'like for like' Pivot Table replacement gives significant performance gains.
  • Pivot tables real estate management - no overlapping or ability to 'push' other pivot tables.
  • Ranking, Filtering and Sorting is limited in Pivot Tables.
  • Formula Reporting is non-intuitive and static. Excel's CubeValue and CubeMember formulae are difficult for many users to pick up, and they have a very limited user interface.
  • Limitations with Slicers - Excel slicers have a number of limitations, particularly the restriction to buttons, and inability to display elements from more than one level.
  • Data visualisation options are well understood but limited - XLCubed adds Small Multiples, TreeMaps, Mapping and In-cell charts.
  • Sharing and Web Publication - not all companies have the Enterprise (or any) version of SharePoint, but still want web delivery of interactive Excel developed reports.

XLCubed addresses these concerns while letting users continue to work in the Excel environment they love and leverage their existing skills. Consequently many companies have found XLCubed a cost effective and easy to implement Pivot Table upgrade. See the white paper for a more detailed discussion.