Mosaic’s Guide to Creating Metrics and Custom Dashboards with Metric Builder
Every business is unique — and your metrics should be, too. Finance teams need to be able to quickly and easily build the custom metrics that matter most to them to uncover insights and answers that drive performance. But it's easier said than done. Learn how to create metrics the modern way.
Director of Content
There comes a time in every company’s lifetime when standard financial and operational metrics no longer cut it. When standard definitions for the metrics that matter most to you and your partners don’t quite match the nuances of your business model, go-to-market motion, or unit economics.
Your business is unique — and your metrics should be, too. Whether that means customizing standard metrics or creating metrics that are entirely unique to your business, you need to be able to tailor your data to the needs of your organization.
Don’t settle for the standard set of metrics you get from a free or low-cost dashboarding tool. Learn how to create metrics and custom dashboards quickly and easily so you can unlock the true value of financial and operational data from across your business.
Table of Contents
Basic vs. Custom Metrics
The difference between basic and custom metrics is whether or not the formula and outputs are tailored specifically to your business.
Your “basic” metrics are the ones that are almost universally accepted across your industry. They’re the kinds of metrics you’ll find in our SaaS Metrics Cheat Sheet — SaaS magic number, burn multiple, runway, burn rate, rule of 40, annual contract value, net revenue retention, etc.
While standard metrics like those can provide high-level, at-a-glance information about your business, they may not necessarily be the right KPIs to answer the hardest financial and operational performance questions.
Custom metrics are what take you to that next level of strategic insight. Instead of calculating a high-level customer acquisition cost or LTV:CAC metric, you tweak the formulas to include certain attributes, filters, and variables to better represent your unique business. That’s what allows you to answer the hardest questions about your business, such as:
- How does our CAC vary by ICP, market, vertical, product, and/or cohort?
- What is our CAC if we strip our sales ramp rate?
- What is our cost per lead and cost per opportunity by channel? By program?
- What is the correlation between support tickets and churn by customer?
- What is our profitability by customer, product, market, and/or employee?
The granularity of these questions makes them great for making more strategic business decisions. But they can seem almost impossible for finance teams to answer consistently, rather than just one time period. Overcoming the challenges of creating custom metrics is critical.
Challenges of Creating and Tracking Custom Metrics
There were a handful of years where growth at all costs was the norm in the startup ecosystem. And as a result, you could get by with basic North Star metrics that showed rapid, explosive growth between funding rounds. That’s no longer the case.
The shift toward profitability over growth at all costs has pushed business leaders to scrutinize operational and financial performance more rigorously. Custom metrics are crucial in this environment — but they’re notoriously difficult to build and track.
If you’re trying to build out a library of custom metrics and track them consistently, you’re going to face a few main challenges.
Manual Data Aggregation and Structuring
When mission-critical data is siloed in disparate systems, aggregating it in one central place and transforming the raw inputs into usable information is manual, time-consuming, and error-prone. Even if you power through those issues, linking disparate datasets together to give them context is complicated and highly manual.
Technical and Complex Formulas and Syntax
If you’re using Excel to create custom metrics, you face an uphill battle to build formulas from scratch that end up being error-prone, unscalable, and fragile. But in most financial planning & analysis software, you get a complicated interface that requires technical coding skills to get the outputs you want.
Ongoing Maintenance and Updates
Traditionally, building custom metrics has never been just about the initial setup. You also have to update the data with the latest actuals on a regular basis. And more likely than not, you’ll need to create new permutations of your custom metrics to capture new levels of granularity. Doing it all manually is an undertaking most finance teams don’t have time for.
How to Create Metrics for Financial Reporting & Analytics
The blessing and the curse of custom metrics is that you can, in theory, build any key performance indicators you can think up. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits-all set of directions to creating metrics that matter to your business — only you know every nuance of your business well enough to create custom metrics that drive performance.
However, when you’re thinking about which custom metrics to build and how to craft them, there are a few basic steps that always apply.
1. Think About the Business Case You’re Trying to Solve
There are few things finance pros love more than metrics. But that doesn’t mean you’re trying to build a library of custom metrics just for the sake of tracking more metrics. There needs to be a business case for each one, so each metric you’re tracking plays a role in helping you strategize around the company’s future.
You can think about business cases for custom metrics in three general buckets:
- Acquisition efficiency metrics. How are you measuring the nuances of your go-to-market motion? This category would include customized versions of CAC, LTV:CAC, and marketing metrics like return on ad spend, and cost per lead/MQL/SQL. It also includes any custom views of ARR, committed ARR, and granular sales performance metrics that are unique to your strategy.
- Retention efficiency metrics. How deeply are you analyzing the performance of your renewal engine? Dig into the “why” behind early signs and lagging indicators of retention issues with customized versions of retention costs, support tickets versus customer satisfaction, usage rates, ARR per CSM, and more.
- Capital efficiency metrics. How well are you managing the path to profitability for your organization. In a cautious capital environment, metrics like days sales outstanding, R&D payback ratio, return on SaaS employee spend (ROSE), and cost of revenue including CS expenses become more important. Don’t just look at the standard definition — think of how you can slice and dice the concept to better understand spend across your organization.
The examples mentioned in each bucket refer to customized versions of often well-known metrics. You don’t have to stop there, though. If you have specific nuances of your business model (e.g. a SaaS business with a hardware component involved), think of how you could mix and match data to come up with entirely new metrics to measure them.
2. Map Out the Datasets Necessary to Create the Metric
The primary challenge of creating custom metrics is efficient data collection from all the disparate systems that run your business. When you know what business case you’re trying to solve, figure out where the necessary data lives.
If you’re talking about acquisition efficiency, you’re looking at the CRM, ERP, and maybe a marketing automation solution. If it’s a capital efficiency metric, the ERP and HRIS systems will be your primary focus.
There are countless ways you could mix and match data. But look at a complex question like “how does our CAC vary by vertical?” as an example.
The metric you need to build to answer that question has three components — acquistion spend, customer count by vertical, and employee costs for go-to-market departments.
This data lives in the ERP, CRM, and HRIS system, respectively. Determine which accounts in your GL amount to the full-loaded acquisition spend, filter your customer base by vertical, and pull in salary data for sales and marketing employees.
3. Use Formulas or Pivot Tables to Build Your Metrics
Once you have all the data points necessary to build your metric, you can start to explore your data and create the logic to calculate the outputs you need.
In the example above, the complexity lies on the CAC side of the equation. Your formula would add all vertical-specific acquisition spend and headcount spend as fully-burdened CAC and divide that spend by customers in the vertical you’re analyzing.
Simple in theory, brutally difficult in practice if you’re doing all of this manually. A solution like Metric Builder makes it easy.
4. Build Out Your Metrics Dashboard
Metrics — even custom ones — are only as valuable as the context around them. Trying to evaluate your business with individual metrics in a vacuum will only lead to misguided strategic decision-making.
After you build a custom metric, you need to be able to add it to any model or dashboard in your library — without having to rebuild it every time. You can’t get this kind of scalability or real-time data in spreadsheets. But when you use Metric Builder to create your custom metrics, you can surface those metrics across every financial model and dashboard in Mosaic.
How Mosaic Metric Builder Transforms Financial Analysis and Planning
Mosaic Metric Builder is the solution to measuring, analyzing, and planning around metrics that capture the nuances of your business. Unlike spreadsheets and legacy FP&A tools, Metric Builder provides:
- The flexibility to build any metric you can think of and quickly create the visualizations business partners need (without the technical overhead of traditional options).
- Total access to key data sources with direct integrations, unlocking the true value of your data by mixing and matching datasets with ease.
- The familiar experience of pivot tables and an Excel-like formula language, so you can work in a lovable UI — not a black box of complex, highly-technical configurations.
Want a quick look at how it works? Watch this walkthrough of creating a custom LTV:CAC calculation in Metric Builder.
Mosaic customers are loving what Metric Builder offers. Brian Weisberg, CFO at Tidelift, says that “the user experience is like nothing I’ve ever seen before in other tools. It really feels like a video game I just don’t want to put down.”
If you want to find out what all the hype is about, request a personalized demo and see what Metric Builder can do for your business.