From NFL To Pop Music, It All Starts With Excel Spreadsheets

CFOs and their teams should know that some of the best minds in sports and music love the same tools they do. 

“I can’t live without Excel.”

You’re never going to get a better testimonial than that, especially by someone being interviewed by one of the largest newspapers in the United States. Yet the spreadsheet fan recently profiled by the Los Angeles Times was not a CFO or someone else who works in a corporate finance department. It was Tom Telesco, general manager of the L.A. Chargers.

In an attempt to better understand how Telesco keeps track of all the variables in scouting for new players during the NFL draft, the paper’s interview took a surprisingly high-tech turn:

Telesco was an early adopter of the Microsoft spreadsheet program in the mid-1990s during his time as a scouting assistant with the Carolina Panthers, and he still relies on it today. Everything can be organized and sorted, tracing the origin of a decision. Whether it was on the tiny field outside of Cleveland, in the offices in Carolina and Indianapolis, or in front of a spreadsheet in his San Diego office, every action has an origin point.

That last phrase is a great one for CFOs and other enterprise Excel users to remember. When decisions seem to come out of nowhere, they rarely turn out well. There’s probably no better way to demonstrate sound judgment than by having empirical data to back you up — especially when it’s in a format anyone can understand.

This could be why spreadsheets are not only favored by Telesco but by Damian Kulash, lead singer of the alt-pop group OK Go.

You may or may not be a fan of their music, but it’s hard not to admire the ingenuity of their videos, including a recent clip called “One Moment” that stretches out a five-second event into a series of mesmerizing set pieces. Kulash offered a look behind the scenes in a recent TED Talk in Vancouver.

“So what’s the secret to their creativity? Obsessive planning,” Quartz reported. “Kulash said that he spent a full month putting together a giant spreadsheet to map out the choreography of color bursts, water bombs and exploding guitars. ‘My play space was 400 lines long and 25 columns wide,’ he said.”

Telesco sees Excel as a place to hunker down and get strategic. Kulash turns to Excel when he’s trying to orchestrate a complex vision. Put both those use cases together and what have you got? Maybe the best rationale for sticking with spreadsheets finance departments have ever had.