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Need-to-Know Tech

The ten innovations that will have the biggest impact on business over the next five years.
Marie Leone, | US
October 1, 2002

You don't have to tell a CFO how difficult it is to assess new technology. Mention the phrase "virtual private network" or "B2B exchange" and most finance chiefs get that pained look in their eyes. Indeed, if the road to heaven is paved with good intentions, the road to hell is paved with ERP implementations.

It's not that business innovations like ERP apps or VPNs don't have merit. They do. The trouble is, lots of new technologies have merit. Unfortunately, IT products don't come with a money-back guarantee; for every PS/2 there's a Kaypro, for every killer app there's... well... a killer app.

The hyperbole surrounding IT innovation makes a CFO's job doubly difficult. First-generation technology is notoriously dicey stuff. Moreover, tech projects don't lend themsleves 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 one piece of whiz-bang science 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, spoke to a slew of experts. Our list of gurus included IT consultants, futurists, and tech-savvy CFOs. The question we asked: name the innovations that will have the biggest impact on business over the next five years.

What they told us was intriguing. Tech spending may be dormant right now, 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.

The ten ''Need-to-Know Tech'' choices:

All ten should change the way companies do business over the next few years. And all should most definitely be on a CFO's radar screen — itself a marvel of technology.

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