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.

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