If 2010 was the year when cloud computing first entered the CFO’s consciousness, and its theoretical shortcomings and benefits were debated in something of a vacuum, 2011 was devoted to rolling up sleeves and digging into the cloud’s practical applications. How was cloud computing altering the relationship between the CFO and CIO? How was moving IT capital expenditures to the cloud’s pay-as-you-go, operating-expense model working out? What were the differences between the three main cloud flavors: software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)? And speaking of service, what services were the vendors really providing and at what cost? What guarantees were they providing in their contracts, and how much risk were they assuming? (The answers to the last: very few and not any.)

While CFOs were being poked and prodded to take advantage of the cloud’s putative cost savings and alleged performance efficiencies, and assessing the ROI of the initiatives that had been launched, 2011 was marked by highly publicized cloud outages and data breaches, which made CFOs feel insecure whether their companies were moving to public, private, or hybrid clouds. How could CFOs manage and mitigate those risks?

As the cloud boiled above the technology landscape, the terrain below was shifting seismically. Smart phones and tablet adoption surged, creating new support, governance, and security challenges as the workforce became increasingly mobile, untethered to (and intolerant of) old-fashioned enterprise IT. Mobility was one factor in the exponential increase in the volume of information collected by the enterprise. The other was the increasing exploitation of social networks and social media in which every nuance of customer sentiment — every tweet, blog, and “like” — could be recorded, logged, stored, and analyzed. How could the enterprise track all that? Why, the technology known as Big Data, of course.

Finally, 2011 will be remembered as the year the computing paradigm finally (and permanently) changed from a finite world in which one loaded software onto a machine (and thereby became responsible for it) to an ever-expanding universe of applications one accessed on browsers.  We’ve entered the age of the app store, where whole systems can be bought and brought online with the swipe of a credit card. The ramifications of that will be played out in 2012 in the arenas of financial planning and analysis, business intelligence, and even ERP.

Here, then, are our top technology stories of 2011.

Cloud Control
You want your cloud provider to share security risk. Your provider wants to limit liability. How to find common ground.

Why CFOs Should Police SaaS Deals
Software-as-a-service applications appeal to business units because they’re cheap to buy and quick to install. It’s up to CFOs to prevent long-term headaches.

Is It Safe? The 7 Principles of Cloud Security
A business application cloud service is only secure if it meets your requirements in seven key areas.

Taxing the Cloud
As the cloud-computing market grows, revenue-starved states are looking to grab a piece of the action by expanding the definition of nexus.

CIOs and CFOs: Can We Talk?
The CFO-CIO relationship is becoming increasingly bumpy. Here’s advice from executives who’ve worked in both finance and technology on smoothing things out.

Your CIO, Your Problem
Knowing what troubles your CIO could be a first step toward building what could be a more productive relationship.

That New Big Data Magic
Acquiring new technologies to find the value in the ever-increasing volume of information you collect won’t help unless you first figure out what you need to know.

The Data Management Imperative
Why the CFO needs to own the information the enterprise collects.

Now You See (Some of) It
Sales force automation tools can show you what’s in the pipeline, but smart CFOs know it’s more important to see what’s not there.

What Ever Happened to the Virtual Close?
CFOs are once again trying to perfect the process of closing the books.

Network Power
Leveraging the connective power of the Internet to automate business processes (and provide the CFO with reliable data on procurement and spending) as well as finding business partners.

This Business of Blogging and Tweeting
If your business is not actively participating in social media, it’s still participating in social media. So you still need a social media policy.

Steve Jobs and the End of Enterprise Computing
The power of cool.

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