The Future of Financial Data with Joe Garafalo of Mosaic
“The future of finance is all about breaking down silos, connecting the systems across the business and producing analytics and models at fast speed, which other people across the business can actually consume.”
Mastering data is one of the main keys for businesses to navigate and operate at their best in the future of work. And Joe Garafalo’s team at Mosaic is working to make that a reality everywhere.
Joe got serious about financial data at Palantir, where he helped build an internal tool to connect various SaaS platforms. This turned into a prototype for Mosaic, a tool that gives companies data to make better decisions.
In this episode of the CFO Yeah! podcast, we discussed the future of finance, and how CFOs can leverage data to position their function at the center of company decision making. He also dispenses great advice on how CFOs can move from a reactive to a strategic approach.
Joe GaraBuilding tools to modernize the finance function
I started my career in New York City in public accounting. I’d been working for about two years at KPMG on private equity and tax structuring when one day, I got a LinkedIn message from a company in the Bay area called Palantir. They needed help to build their finance team.
I was given a lot of responsibility there, and got to take the team from the early days of QuickBooks and paper-based bills all the way to things like NetSuite and Salesforce. We learned a lot during that process, and realized there weren't good tools on the market to help people in finance communicate with business partners efficiently. So, that’s where the idea for Mosaic (my current company) was born.
We essentially built the first version at Palantir and it connected a lot of the cloud based tools that we used to run the business to a central database. The rest of the business noticed something had changed, and wanted access to what we had built. So we put a front end on it and different department heads were then able to login and see how their business was trending.
It really changed the way that we were able to make decisions. It also brought the finance team to the forefront of these conversations that we otherwise weren't invited to a couple years earlier.
Putting data at the heart of finance
Mosaic is quite simple to use. It’s connected to the company’s underlying systems. But it’s a lot more than just moving data from one place to the other, it's about how those data sets work together.
For example, your customer will start their journey in your marketing system, typically in HubSpot. Once that marketing contact becomes a lead, your sales team will create an opportunity in Salesforce. If the sales team wins the deal, the finance team will send an invoice out of the ERP. And then, that customer may pay you through Stripe.
So just like that, your customer record is broken across four or five different systems. Mosaic joins all of those data sets on that customer record. This way, businesses get a 360-degree view of everything that happened across their life cycle.
So that mapping process is really how the magic happens behind the scenes and makes everything else possible. But the customer is just one example. There’s plenty of other examples, whether it's employees and departments or vendors…
For instance, you can connect your HR systems and get really rich analytics about all your people. And then more than just doing your analytics on your headcount, you could actually build a headcount forecast in Mosaic.
The tool is meant to be collaborative, so that finance can talk to other departments, understand hiring plans. Based on this understanding, they can build those hiring plans into the application. That way, it produces a forward looking financial model for the business.
Joe’s vision on the future of strategic finance
In the past, finance was understaffed, working hard behind the scenes in the back office. Back then, the teams didn’t have technology to complete lower value tasks quickly. As a consequence, they spent a lot of time working on those.
And while every other department was having this ‘software Renaissance’ and technology let them do more with less, to be more efficient and automated, and finance was left in the dust.
Strategic finance means the ability to speak the language of the rest of the business partners. That can be done by collecting the digital exhaust their systems are producing, and using that to inform strategic decisions. Thanks to the data, the finance team can provide a holistic analysis to the whole company. This in turn helps make better decisions.
But the thing holding finance back is data silos. And there’s also a lack of automation and tooling that makes everything slow. It still takes too long to produce models. Everything is very fragile, even when it;s built in a first class way.
So, the future of finance is all about breaking down silos. It’s about connecting systems across the business and producing analytics and models at fast speed, which other people can actually consume.
How CFOs & finance teams go from reactive to strategic
Being a strategic person in finance is all about setting up the infrastructure and the technology in a way that will work for you rather than against you.
For example, I often meet finance teams whose CRM data is a mess. They have to download the data, manipulate it, put formulas on it, and correct the mistakes. And suddenly, the system of record for their revenue or customer data is a spreadsheet that lives on someone's desktop.
That’s a Band-Aid solution. To address the real problem, you need to go further. You need to work with sales, marketing, and actually correct the data within the CRM. This way, you don’t have to maintain these separate files outside of the system that won't scale.
If you don't set that up, you’re going to have to do a lot of the lower value tasks of manipulating data, formatting it, and getting it ready for analysis. Instead of actually focusing on what the numbers mean. And more importantly, that will leave you no time to focus on what the numbers will be in the future.
What makes good, strategic CFOs is that they have a really good relationship with the CEO and the board. That’s what I see the most in great CFOs.