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Need-to-Know Tech

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You don't have to tell a CFO how difficult it is to assess new technology. Tech projects don't lend themselves to traditional ROI calculations like IRR or ROA -- absolute touchstones for a CFO.

Not surprisingly, finance chiefs often find themselves signing off on IT projects they don't understand. Worse: Such decisions are often made in a vacuum, with little sense of how each piece fits into the larger technological puzzle.

That makes it nearly impossible to place bets confidently. To help CFOs get a better sense of which next-gen technologies are true landscape-shakers, we spoke with IT consultants, futurists, and tech-savvy CFOs. The question we asked: What innovations will have the biggest impact on business over the next five years?

What they told us was intriguing. Tech spending may be dormant, but tech innovation is clearly not. Over the next few years, CFOs can expect to see some jaw-dropping products make their way into the business realm. While a few of our panel's selections are still under development, we tried to steer clear of science fiction. We wanted things that will be in mainstream corporate use within five years.

At right you'll find our briefing on the first item on the list, XBRL; you'll find all our ''Need-to-Know Tech'' choices below. All ten should change the way companies do business over the next few years -- and all of them should be on your radar screen.

FEATURE ARTICLE
1. XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language)
This standard for financial data vastly improves the accuracy and speed of corporate reporting. Unfortunately, it's still not standard fare for most finance departments.


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THE REST OF THE NEED-TO-KNOW LIST
2. Business Intelligence
Advanced search agents and next-gen BI software will dramatically change the way finance employees -- and a lot of other workers -- do their jobs.
3. Wireless Connectivity
Wi-Fi networks will stretch the boundaries of the office, and productivity. But standards and roaming technology snags will have to be hammered out before pervasive computing is, well, pervasive.
4. Grid Computing
Asset allocation comes to processing power. The result? Faster -- and cheaper -- computing.
5. Multivariable Testing (MVT)
What do the front page of the National Enquirer and phone repair have in common?
6. Digital Cryptography
E-commerce won't reach its true potential until a single security standard for digital transactions is in place. That may take some doing.
7. Rich Media
Following 9/11, corporate interest in video and Web conferencing surged. Better products are on the way -- but limited bandwidth may leave some users disappointed.
8. Internet2
While not as earth-shattering as the original, this sequel will move E-commerce to a whole new level.
9. Biometrics
With identity theft and terrorism now constant threats, corporations have begun to see the value of biometrics.
10. Small Technology
Computer displays you can tote around with one hand? Plastics almost as strong as steel? Improved drug efficacy? Micro-managing finally pays off.

MORE INTRIGUING TECHNOLOGIES
Delete the Workers
Sun's covert nerd-reduction program will make it much easier to run corporate data centers.
Now You See It
Graphs, maps, animations, and other visual displays of information may succeed where spreadsheets fail.
Wireless Telecoms: Watch This Airspace
Four disruptive technologies are emerging that promise to render not only the next wave of so-called 3G wireless networks irrelevant, but possibly even their 4G successors.
The Tech 20
The people, trends, and issues that most influence information technology today.
Top Ten Tech Needs of Finance
Business and finance applications top the list. Finding IT workers, on the other hand, is not a big problem.
Web Services: Can We Talk?
Web services are getting plenty of buzz, but if they do provide a simple way for applications to talk to each other, the hype may be justified.
Where's the Smart Money?
Money of the future may almost literally talk.
Timely Technology
New kinds of software could make companies both more integrated and more flexible.
The Ten Most Intriguing Technologies for 2002
IT budgets may be tight, but as CFO Europe reports, finance chiefs can't afford to ignore these ten tech innovations.
No Hiding Place for Anyone
Embedded in bank notes or designer labels, the ''mu-chip'' can beep out the owner's location and details to marketers and thieves alike. The Hitachi chip is the world's smallest wireless identification device.
The Next Great Business Machines
These high-tech wonders will dramatically change the way companies operate.

ROI ARCHIVE
Vive le ROI
The quest to pin down ROI on technology is turning into an industry in itself -- and sending CFOs back to basics.
ROI: Results Often Immeasurable?
Despite a torrent of interest in ROI calculations, truly workable solutions are just beginning to emerge.
Keep IT Simple, Stupid
As new software and IT services increase in complexity, the need for a unifying strategy is more important than ever.
ROI: The Age of Reason
Companies have been letting IT investments spiral out of control. But CFOs are fighting back.
IT Spending: Same Budget, Different Day
Companies are focused on making better use of the resources they already have.
All Hail the ROI
Technology sales now hinge less on features and functions -- and more on finance.
Judging Tech? It Ain't Easy
Measuring the ROI on tech projects is tough enough. Now some companies are looking to evaluate the performance of their IT employees.
Technology: Ten Smart Moves
Now might be the time for some prudent IT investments. These offerings are worth a closer look.
What CFOs Really Think about Technology
Real-time analytics remain at the top of the technology list for finance chiefs. They're also spending more time in the tech department than ever -- and bringing their yardsticks with them.
The Ten Most Intriguing Technologies for 2002
IT budgets may be tight, but as CFO Europe reports, finance chiefs can't afford to ignore these ten tech innovations.
What's Your IT IQ?
CFOs who don't understand technology may want to consider another career.
ROI: Mad to Measure
Calculating the return on E-business investments isn't easy, but that doesn't stop companies from trying.

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