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The 20/20 Issue

An ambitious yet clear-eyed look at the technologies, trends, and traps that will drive corporate IT strategies in 2004.

This issue caps the first full year of CFO IT, a year in which we received many encouraging words from readers, won several awards, missed a typo or two, and, most important, sought to bring a fresh and relevant perspective to IT strategy as viewed from the CFO’s office. We’re not unhappy with our efforts so far, but we’re in no mood for nostalgia, and our laurels remain decidedly unrested-upon. Instead, we’re closing out 2003 with an ambitious look ahead to 2004.

We’ve identified 20 technologies and trends most likely to dominate the IT agenda next year, and offer synopses of where they stand and how they may evolve. Any attempt at short-listing is bound to invite counterarguments as to what really should have been included, but we’re confident the subjects profiled here will generate both heat and light throughout all of 2004. We’ve divided the 20 into four broad categories: IT management, core technologies, finance IT, and emerging technologies. We’ve put a premium on pithiness and a bounty on hype, distilling each topic to its essence, with the occasional reckless prediction thrown in to lighten the mood. For this special issue, we’ve downplayed case studies so that we can offer a primer on a wide range of technologies that are certain to be discussed at your company — maybe not today, or tomorrow, but soon.

Technology, and the effective management thereof, are moving targets. You may think there’s little more to be said about Sarbanes-Oxley, offshoring, the high price of software, or Linux, to cite just a handful of the topics profiled within. But in the next 14 months, each of these will significantly influence the manner in which most companies operate, in ways you may not see coming. For us, that means our second year is certain to be even more interesting than our first. For you, it means this issue is one to keep handy even as you wait for the next one to arrive.

IT Management

Strategic issues abound, from the burdens of regulation to the promise of new architectures.

We begin our 20/20 package with a look at five managerial issues that are almost impossible to separate from one another. The management of technology has long been synonymous with the buying of technology, for two reasons: the price tag for hardware, software, personnel, networking, consulting services, and other forms of IT is massive, and most companies’ needs are constantly evolving, due to both new business goals and the many new opportunities afforded by technology. Deciding whether and what to buy becomes more difficult when budgets are tight, and when new regulatory pressures are thrown in (which may or may not entail additional IT expense or additional opportunities for IT to help solve a thorny business problem), the effect can be nearly paralyzing. Did we mention new license models and the option of outsourcing or offshoring? Challenging, to say the least. But manageable, if approached as a five-step process.

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