Chris Ortega

Dynamic, qualified and highly ethical financial leader with over 10+ years of experience in accounting, financial planning & analysis, corporate finance, and financial management. Expert in analyzing data, resolving problems and providing top management with strategic options; detail-oriented self- starter with great analytical and organizational skills. Creative problem solver and team player who thrives in a collaborative and dynamic environment. Seasoned professional with proven track record operating with multinational and international matrix organizations. Wide ranging experiences in finance and accounting with Big 4 accounting firm, entrepreneurial, and public & private companies. Committed to aligning passions, skills and talents to help others realize and achieve greatness. 

Specialties Include:

  • Financial Planning, Reporting & Analysis
  • Data Analysis & Business Intelligence
  • Financial Modeling & Scenario Planning
  • Budgeting, Forecasting & Cost Management
  • Business Growth & Expansion
  • Strategic Advisory & Consultancy
  • Developing & Leading High-Performance Teams

Author's Articles

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5 Simple Steps to Help Drive Knowledgeable, Strategic Decisions

By Chris Ortega, Director of Finance at Emarsys, USA

The decision cycle will help you and your association make knowledgeable decisions that drive exceptional results. I myself use this very process when making important forecasting and planning decisions. Today, I am going to share my insights with you and your team so that you can witness the profound impacts of implementing these five simple steps.

PROCESSES (Data Foundation)

The most significant element and the framework of all sound decision are processes. Processes are vital to any associations as they identify the core steps that need to be completed to reveal data.

Strong documentation, process mapping, and engaged process owners are the foundation of sound business decisions. For example, by incorporating process templates to department managers they will have a clear understanding of how to document their main processes, and it will much easier to collect the data necessary to complete the second stage of the decision cycle. Additionally, clearly establishing roles and responsibilities among your staff, as well as actively sharing information throughout the organization, are beneficial in building a high-performance team.

Do you currently utilize process templates? Do your staff members know their roles within the organization? Are your association’s strategic goals communicated and understood by all members of your team? Ask yourself these questions, and make sure that you are implementing the processes necessary to optimize the results you receive from executing the decision cycle

DATA (Data Mining)

The raw output of processes is data. Data are the tangible pieces of information derived from processes, and in reality, define the first step in the actual decision making.

When evaluating and analyzing data, you have to ensure the figures you’re looking at are accurate. You will build comfort and confidence in accuracy by having well thought out processes and consistency in execution.

Once collected, you can begin to turn your data into information, thus laying the strategic groundwork that you and your team need to make educated business decisions.

INFORMATION (Data Analysis)

As soon as data is collected, you can proceed to the Information stage. During this stage, data will be consolidated so as to begin the most important element in the decision cycle: analysis.

Analysis, analysis, and yes, more analysis is vital because this is where high value-added activities are established (i.e. the particular point in time where variance, trending, segment, and drill down analyses are performed). Anyone can gather data, but turning that data into manageable information is paramount to successful decision making.

There an infinite amount of ways to analyze data. For example, by analyzing trends of membership or event data, you could explore answers to the following questions:

  • Is one particular membership group yielding more revenue than another?
  • Does the month of an event drive higher engagement than other months in the year?

During the Information stage, you should take a deeper dive into answering these types of questions.

KNOWLEDGE (Learning & Collaboration)

Once data has been collected and successfully transformed into information, you are now equipped to turn that information into knowledge. This knowledge can and should be, shared with colleagues, managers, and association executives.

This stage is specifically where organizations realize the true value of the cycle - empowering future decisions, which are based on concrete information derived from data executed by process owners.

Knowledge is power and is central to associations as it creates an environment where people are empowered with the information and intent that they need to execute upon all aspects within the association.

DECISION (Business Execution)

The last step is making the decision.

If all of the subsequent steps have been successfully executed, anyone is capable of making and/or contributing to the final decision - not just the executive team. It is important to understand that as a result of the prior steps in the cycle, both comfort and confidence are built to help ensure that a sound final decision is made. Therefore, in reality, the execution is a comprehensive effort by all staff members because of the many touchpoints that the information has throughout the cycle.

Now that you know the steps of the decision cycle, let’s actually put it into action!

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How does FP&A drive strategic partnership?

By Chris Ortega, Director of Finance at Emarsys, USA

Looking to leverage your FP&A team into strategic partnership? One question to ask is how does FP&A drive strategic partnership & value? Strong FP&A teams have a neutral perspective and bring data-driven decision making into the partnership. Collaboration, operational knowledge and accountability are elements they bring to the table. Below I will explore three aspects where FP&A teams drive strategic partnership.

Driver 1: Consistent communication & accountability 

Consistent communication is one element FP&A teams implement in strategic partnership and drive execution.  Communication is vital to aligning different departments around business objectives and key results.  They bring a viewpoint of cascading the right information and keeping the team informed on progress, roadblocks and timelines. 

The second element where they help drive strategic partnership is accountability.  Accountability is essential to any successful collaborative initiative or project.  They help reinforce accountability throughout all partnership elements.  Not only the outcome but also the different milestones involved in driving a key business initiative.  They ensure timelines are delivered, information is cascaded and the project/initiative is moving forward. 

Driver 2: Data-driven and less emotional decision making

Have you been a part of a decision that was based on gut feelings or guesswork?  Usually, failure happens when decision making is based solely on gut or emotions. This is where FP&A brings value, a neutral and unbiased perspective necessary for data-driven decision making.  

Data-driven decision-making is scalability and ensures agile learning which businesses can build upon.  Many departments have an emotional stake in initiatives overall outcomes.  For instance, if a business is looking to increase sales and working with an emotional or gut feeling department, their likely first response would be hiring more people.  “If we had 3 more employees then we could increase sales by 10 percent.”  Sound familiar? However, after incorporating FP&A teams the data becomes the starting point such as pipeline, productivity and other key sales drivers.  Many organizations try to solve their problems or leverage opportunities by adding or subtracting people.  However, its often better to slow down, look at the data and then speed up. 

Driver 3: Breaking large initiatives into individual projects

It’s hard to see the forest amongst the trees and trying to tackle a key business initiative head-on might not be the best path.   FP&A teams help break down a large initiative into smaller projects to build momentum, alignment and direction.  For instance, when trying to increase sales leads and new opportunities.  This is a challenging initiative and there are many directions to tackle this issue.  Now, where FP&A teams help drive strategic partnership is isolating the issue into individual smaller projects, which could be looking at the marketing strategy.  What are the marketing results?  Is there a marketing strategy?  Have they consistently met their KPI’s?  Do they have KPI’s? If so, how are they tracking them? Gathering this information and results helps inform the next project.  FP&A team’s ability to break down the project into smaller manageable projects and drive learning helps shape the overall outcome.  Most successful FP&A teams are not only great financial leaders but even greater project managers. 

In conclusion, FP&A teams if leveraged correctly and supported can be major partners for company success.  Unfortunately, the reality is that most teams are viewed as scorekeepers so they are not the first group incorporated in the strategic partnership.  We have a part to play and it takes that first leap of faith to change the tide.   Lastly, find quick wins, challenge your people and take an active role in shaping and building your value in the strategic partnership.

The article was first published in Prevero Blog.

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How Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will change FP&A

By Chris Ortega, Director of Finance at Emarsys, USA

 FP&A Trends, Advanced Analytics Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are two elements that will have a vital impact on financial planning analysis (FP&A) being leveraged in organizations. However, to realize the economics of scale of AI & ML there are 3 vital elements that need to be present before leveraging these technologies: massive data, minimum 10 years data history and focused algorithms. In this post, I will explore 3 impacts on how AI & ML  will change FP&A people, processes and value.

The future of AI and machine learning related to finance and accounting will revolutionize businesses and value of these teams. 

Change #1: Data X

What do I mean by Data X? The best way to describe it is through an example. During a hotel stay in Las Vegas, I found myself trying to relax after a long flight.  So, I turned on the TV and could select from a large variety of multimedia content (movies, TV shows, songs, etc.). AI & ML will bring the same self-serve and on-demand data to FP&A teams. Think of Data X as Siri or Google Now which helps you get answers, directions, or facts quickly. AI & machine learning will bring the same elements to FP&A by asking, clarifying, or communicating financial or non-financial data in seconds. For example, asking Herman (makes sense if you visited the link above), what was total revenue for the past 6 months?" Or, what is our sales forecast for the next quarter? Data X is the combination of tools, machine learning and providing quick reliable and actionable data instantly. Furthermore, companies such as Microsoft, Tableau, and IBM are already exploring and developing these features and the impact it will have on FP&A will bring transformative change.

Change #2: Chase for 3 I's 

The second change AI & machine learning will have on FP&A is around the 3 I's which is introduction, implementation and integration. FP&A will be slow in adopting these tools within our teams and businesses, which means these factors, will be vital to increasing our value proposition. Most organizations will do well in introduction and implementation; however, few organizations will adopt the value and transformative aspects of integration. What do I mean by integration? Integration is where the tools, theory and application of AI & machine learning become entrenched in decision making and business processes. Additionally, AI & machine learning becomes part of the company’s DNA and the basis for business execution. Therefore, implementing the 3 I's will impact FP&A by becoming part of the company culture.

Change #3: Team Evolution 

You are probably asking yourself, "Chris this is very general. Come on, man." However, what I mean by team evolution is improving the balance of low & high value activities within FP&A teams. AI & machine learning can eliminate focus on low value activities such as data aggregation, data mining and turning data into information. I am not saying AI & machine learning will take your job but it will align your people/teams on high value activities. Most companies are cash strapped or resource constrained but if AI & machine learning is integrated correctly then FP&A teams will have more time to focus on high value activities such as strategic planning, business partnership, and predictive analytics. Also, gone are the days where doing business the same way you have been for the past 20 or 30 years, expecting the same results and remaining relevant is simply business suicide. Therefore, team evolution and activity balancing will be direct benefits of AI & machine learning.

In conclusion, AI & machine learning is your friend, not your enemy, and it is not going to replace jobs! However, organizations/teams pushing the limits and testing the capacity/value of these tools will benefit tremendously. My 10-year outlook is that tomorrow's FP&A teams/leaders will utilize AI & machine learning as another avenue to accelerate knowledge sharing and data decision making to drive business results. Companies and teams that understand and incorporate these changes in their respective businesses will reap the competitive advantages and scale.

 

The article was first published in prevero Blog

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Keeping Calm during Budget Season. Top 5 Tips to Survive!

By Chris Ortega, Director of Finance at Emarsys, USA

As a former public accounting auditor, I have been through my fair share of busy seasons which usually ran from September to April. My busy season experience consisted of 60 - 80 hour work weeks, working on the weekends, learning at an accelerated rate, and then waking up after April 15 trying to realize what the hell happened the past couple of months. For me, this was a character building and learning opportunity that I am privileged and thankful that I got to experience in my career. However, like most, I realized this was not what I wanted to do long term.

Moving on from public accounting to working for small to large companies I found myself in the similar burst of time known as "budget season". Although there are similarities there are also some key differences; those being working with a great team focused understanding, and partnership with other leaders.  Also, spending 1 - 3 months working on next year’s financial plan and ultimately completing the budget. I felt accomplished and confident that we delivered significant value to internal and external stakeholders.

Then, you come into the beginning of the year and all the work you just completed is worthless. The business, assumptions, markets, strategy, economy or macro business factors have all changed. Now the budget is irrelevant and the company has to focused on either a new budget re-plan or forecast.

Below are my top 5 tips to help you get through your next budget season efficiently without burning out.

1.  Help your team and organization focus on a few key business drivers.

Application: Some companies or teams want to focus on all business drivers and factors to ensure they have covered everything in the planning and overall budget presentation. Instead, focus on a few company KPI's to use for planning and predicting the business such as labor costs, capital costs or cash burn.

2.  Balance time, energy and effort.

Application: Set up a tentative budget timeline and schedule with roles, responsibilities, and timelines for completion. This will help everyone involved in the budget process to know their responsibility and timelines to ensure you are moving together and executing.

3.  Focus on quality and not  quantity of budget documents.

Application: Do you have debt compliance reporting, corporate reporting, board reporting, or other reporting for external stakeholders? If so, let this be the first place you look to ensure you are completing the necessary budget documents for external and internal stakeholders. Also, don't get consumed with having an 80 excel tab document or other documents that focuses on irrelevant business factors.

4.  Develop an attitude of learning & partnership and not frustration & isolation.

Application: As long as you are in a finance, accounting, or FP&A capacity; budgets will likely be a reality for you. As with anything in life, your attitude will determine your altitude and outlook on any situation. So, support the process, execute, and deliver your greatest effort and work.

5.  Trust the process and don't try to rush the process.

Application: Budget season is a period where executive leadership to managers to individual contributors gain valuable insights about the business and company direction. Although you might have been through plenty of these season's in the past just understand this might be the first time for someone on your team or organization. So, help them understand the importance of trusting the process and not rushing just to get things done which could lead to others missing out on a great learning opportunity.

Lastly, no matter the situation or environment find the learning, growth, and opportunity to expand your skills, passions, talents and most of all have FUN!

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Strategic Partnership: Why it is important?

By Chris Ortega, Director of Finance at Emarsys, USA

whyWhy is strategic partnership important? You might be asking yourself this question when going to a sales meeting, working with another department or attending a company meeting. Strategic partnership is paramount as it allows FP&A teams to spend less time on traditional finance functions like reporting, treasury, tax and investor relations. Instead, they are engaged in detailed data analysis, driving key business processes and leading the company business model and overall strategic direction. Below you will see why strategic partnership is important.

Consistent Execution

Execution boils down to two key areas which are trusting the numbers and providing business insights for future direction. Ultimately, it is vital to track, report and execute on business initiatives and projects. FP&A teams that are viewed as strategic partners have a “seat at the table” in business decision making and execution.  

FP&A teams are usually at the end of the customer lifecycle, but having them incorporated earlier makes certain that business insights are communicated in advance and understood by all until the final decision is made.

 

FP&A Strategic Partnership Challenge: Find a key business project or initiative to be a strategic partner to provide trust in the numbers, insights and execution.

 

Business Enablement

The business enablement principle and why it is important to strategic partnership is about obtaining alignment on processes, deliverables and company funding strategy. Here is the reality, the buck stops when it comes to FP&A teams.  We have access to all the budgets, actuals and forecasts. Therefore, when getting people, processes and leadership moving into the right direction, its critical to know the monetary and people funding strategies.  

Alignment when moving fast to enter a new market, targeting a different customer segment or pivoting sales & marketing strategy is often left to guesswork. These are valuable skills from FP&A teams through strategic partnership because it leads to clear direction on responsibilities, timelines and accountability.  Thus, allowing for greater understanding on tactical & strategic processes as well as value drivers. 

 

FP&A Strategic Partnership Challenge: Identify a key business process that allows your team to work with other departments and drive process excellence. 

 

Business Development & Communication

One of the hardest elements in executing on a strategy is business development and communication. Lack of communication is one of the biggest culprits in business failure and unsuccessful execution.  Updating the company and leadership team on status of strategic goals doesn’t get much attention but is a big driver of company success.   

Gone are the days, where business development is just selling or marketing your products or services, but more about developing growth and retention strategies. There are plenty of business development frameworks through a simple Google search, however, be cautious on selecting the framework appropriate to your organization’s needs. In terms of strategic partnership, the role of FP&A teams is helping introduce, implement and incorporate these frameworks to move strategically in the right direction.

 

 FP&A Strategic Partnership Challenge: Research a few business developments or communication strategies that could drive better alignment and communication. Then, work to introduce, implement and incorporate them in your organization.

 

In conclusion, we looked at why strategic partnership is important and the role FP&A teams play inside businesses and decision making.  The key takeaway is to ask yourself, “How does my manager, our leadership team, or other stakeholders view our team?”  This answer helps identify if your viewed as a strategic partner. The goal should be moving away from being a scorekeeper and moving towards strategic partnership. 

Lastly, tell me about your successes, learnings and any other feedback on the FP&A challenges and keep pushing!

 

The article was first published in Unit 4 Prevero Blog

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Author's Articles

July 19, 2019

The decision cycle will help you and your association make knowledgeable decisions that drive exceptional results. I myself use this very process when making important forecasting and planning decisions. Today, I am going to share my insights with you and your team so that you can witness the profound impacts of implementing these five simple steps.

January 30, 2019

Why is strategic partnership important? You might be asking yourself this question when going to a sales meeting, working with another department or attending a company meeting.  Strategic partnership is paramount as it allows FP&A teams to spend less time on traditional finance functions like reporting, treasury, tax and investor relations. 

November 14, 2018

So, you’re a C-suite executive, Vice President, Director, Manager, Senior, or Staff financial professional and a high potential and performance team member or members have left the company. The goal of this blog is to provide 5 success factors for retaining and building a FP&A dream team from the perspective of a high potential and performer millennial.

October 31, 2018
FP&A Tags:

People are the most expensive asset but they are vital to running a successful business and delivering value. However, few organizations understand the why talent management and retention is important to their bottom line.

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