The Golden Framework: An Intentional Architecture for FP&A
Finance needs to be able to explain company performance across all corners of the business. But that's harder than ever as SaaS tools continue to fracture financial data into individual departmental silos. Now is the time for finance to lead the charge on building an intentional architecture for business data.
An explosion of SaaS tools has created a key problem plaguing many businesses—tools and processes are now built for specific departmental requirements with no data architecture standards to follow.
That’s especially problematic for the finance team. You have to be able to explain the company’s performance across all corners of the business. But without an intentional data architecture that brings all the data together, you’re stuck trying to assemble a puzzle full of mismatched pieces.
As SaaS tools continue to fracture financial information across the business, it’s more important than ever for finance teams to lead the charge on building an intentional architecture for managing business data.
What Is Intentional Architecture?
The concept of intentional architecture comes from the world of DevOps and agile development. According to the Scaled Agile Framework, intentional architecture “defines a set of purposeful, planned architectural strategies and initiatives, which enhance solution design, performance, and usability.”
What that means is that for agile development to work, you need an overarching architectural strategy for integrating small-scale development projects into the large-scale solution. That same guiding principle has to carry over to the finance world.
Finance needs a clear understanding of how disconnected business systems and data will connect as the business scales. But it’s important not to confuse intentional architecture with the kinds of business intelligence (BI) setups that so many businesses use to weave data together. As former CFO of NetSuite Ron Gill has said:
Business intelligence is a great way to create a single source of truth for financial data that lives in all your different point solutions. But it can’t fix process issues. It doesn’t get your data to move smoothly through an end-to-end process. Now, finance needs a solution like Mosaic that doesn’t just pull and visualize the data but also runs core processes like planning, mapping, reporting, and modeling.
When the Mosaic founding team was at Palantir, we worked alongside so many world-class engineers and data scientists. They taught us about the importance of building our own intentional architecture for financial planning and analysis (FP&A).
Now, we’ve built a Strategic Finance Platform to give modern finance teams the intentional architecture that made our lives so much easier at Palantir. It creates a golden framework by integrating with your key business systems and joining datasets on key fields, saving you the uphill battle of coding databases and configuring BI tools to create it yourself.
The Golden Framework for Financial Planning and Analysis
The golden framework is a data architecture that pulls all financial information from across business systems and maps it into a common ontology.
It’s a way to keep financial analysts from spending so much time pulling and cleaning data from individual systems of record. Instead, the golden framework joins key fields from different datasets, so FP&A professionals get a centralized view of financial health and a foundation for all financial reporting, analysis, and strategic planning.
It’s not enough to pull data into a spreadsheet on an ad hoc basis any time you need to answer a strategic business question. You need to automate the process by building pipelines that funnel financial exhaust into a central data repository.
That’s where you often have to bring in an engineer to code the different datasets together and create the common ontology that helps you answer any question about the business. Historically, the process has looked something like the image below:
Given that FP&A professionals don’t typically have the technical skills, resources, or time to create this, and it’s unlikely you’ll get a dedicated data engineering team to manage it, building a DIY version of the golden framework is easier said than done. (It’s one of the main reasons the future of finance hinges on purpose-built business intelligence.)
Mosaic fills the technical gaps within the finance function to make the golden framework accessible, giving you the ability to answer any question about the business quickly.
How the Golden Framework Actually Works
The easiest way to understand how the golden framework actually works is to walk through an example. Think about all the different systems involved in the average customer journey.
Your business might generate leads from campaigns that run through a marketing automation tool like HubSpot. Then, once a lead engages with marketing collateral, sales picks it up and reaches out through a CRM like Salesforce. If all goes well, the lead converts to an opportunity and (eventually) a customer. That’s when finance steps in to send an invoice through a tool like NetSuite. And finally, your customer might pay through a third-party payment processor like Stripe or Chargebee.
In that example, the customer journey breaks out across four different software platforms, all of which generate financial data. The golden framework works behind the scenes to bring all of that disconnected data into a common operating picture. And as a result, you’re able to answer strategic questions like:
- How long does it take for a new website visitor to become a customer?
- What was our customer acquisition cost for existing accounts and how will it change in the future?
- How long is our sales rep ramp?
- Which of our customer cohorts are hitting 120%+ net revenue retention?
These are questions you can’t leave to gut feelings. Without a Golden Framework in place, answering these questions takes hours of manual data mapping and investigation to piece together the customer journey from disjointed systems.
The golden framework bridges that gap between all of these different systems so that you get a true single source of truth for customer records. Not the kind of single source of truth that ERPs promised (and failed) to deliver. But rather, a truly holistic view of the entire financial customer journey.
The golden framework gives you a 360° view of every customer record. If the concept of a customer only lived in one system, this wouldn’t be all that special. But the reality is that the financial customer journey is disjointed, and this is only one example.
Automated Mapping and Standardization of Operational Data
In addition to a 360° view of the financial customer journey, the golden framework provides a common ontology for all operational data across your business. It rolls up all your unique departments into the four core categories on your income statements and balance sheets—research and development, sales and marketing, general and administrative, and cost of revenue.
Especially in high-growth companies, it can be almost impossible for finance to manually keep department structures up-to-date. New teams continuously sprout up, and potentially hundreds of new hires per year alter your operational data to the point that financial data becomes too messy for effective, forward-looking FP&A.
But with a golden framework, operational data feeds into the single source of truth automatically. That’s how modern FP&A teams can make planning and analysis more agile to provide strategic insight into questions like:
- How many new sales reps do we need to add to reach our revenue goals? And how will an aggressive hiring plan impact the business?
- What’s the “why” behind the outcomes in our budget vs. actuals reports?
- Are we maintaining the right ratios of employees to managers as we scale the business?
- What changes can we make to our business model to maximize profit margins?
When you have a common ontology for analyzing all operational data, you can do more than just report numbers for financial statements. You can dig deep into the story your data is telling and focus more on strategic financial management.
Turn Disjointed Data into an Intentional Architecture
Mosaic is the connective tissue for modern financial planning and analysis. It automates financial data integration, freeing you up to focus on adding strategic value to your business by:
- Giving the finance team a technical skillset without having to manage complex databases, programming languages, BI tools, and planning software platforms
- Improving collaboration during the budgeting and planning processes
- Helping you update financial models to answer strategic questions in minutes instead of days
- Providing real-time insight into financial performance
Want to see how it can work for your company? Get a personalized demo and learn how you can give your finance team a solid foundation for business partnering success.
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