Cristina Tate is Senior Finance Director, HPE Software FP&A at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. She has worked at the tech giant for over 27 years, having worked in a number of roles at company across risk management and finance. She has worldwide responsibility for strategic financial analysis, forecasting and reporting of HPE Software business, including P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow, and has driven more than $150 million in annual Operating Expense reduction.
We sat down with her ahead of her presentation at the FP&A for High-Tech Summit, taking place in San Francisco this April 18–19.
How has the role of the finance function changed over the last decade? What do you see as having been the main drivers behind this?
Finance is now getting a seat at the table. We are seen as a trusted partner that can help drive business and support decision-making. In a highly competitive environment, the strategic and analytical ability that Finance can bring to the table is invaluable to identify issues and develop solutions.
Do you think executives' perceptions of finance leaders as accountants still prevent them taking up a role as a strategic partner in their organizations? If so, how can they overcome this?
It definitely can. You still hear Finance folks referred to as 'bean-counters' and 'number-crunchers' occasionally. However, it is incumbent upon us as Finance leaders to contribute beyond the numbers and make sure it is understood that we offer so much more in terms of analysis and insight. Don’t only weigh in on financial questions. If you have an opinion on an issue being discussed, share it.
What do you see as being the most important thing to consider when forecasting during a period of sustained growth? What else can finance leaders do to drive growth?
Finance leaders can provide analysis to pinpoint where the growth opportunities are and encourage focus. Whether it’s historical trend analysis, predictive analytics or market assessment, Finance can provide fact-based data to guide business leaders. We can also provide a voice of reason to make sure cost structures are sensible and flexible, so that we can respond quickly if there is a change, either external or internal. It’s a dynamic environment, so agility is critical.
What do you foresee being the major risks you face at your company in the near future?
We are going through two spin-merges and simultaneously implementing a new IT platform. The work involved is enormous. We have detailed plans, including contingency plans to mitigate the risk, and are leveraging the experience from the HPE/HPI separation to ensure we are successful in both efforts.
What will you be discussing in your presentation? Is there anyone else you are particularly looking to hear from?
I will be discussing how the HPE FP&A organization seized the opportunity of the historic separation of Hewlett-Packard Company into two Fortune 50 companies to 'reboot' FP&A and become a more trusted business partner. It involved reorganization and leadership changes as well as shifts in culture, mindset and communication style.
I look forward to all of the presentations and engaging with Finance leaders from other companies. I have been so heads-down with all of the heavy lifting and change the last couple of years that it will be exciting to hear fresh perspectives and learn from others!
You can hear more from Cristina, along with other finance leaders, at the FP&A for High Tech Summit. You can view the full agenda here.