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Tech Trends That Should Be at the Top of Every Finance Department's Watch List

While every senior executive should pay attention to the latest technological trends and how new tools will impact their company's ability to stay competitive, outperform rivals, and better serve clients, finance chiefs in particular have to be in the know. Corporate finance departments at firms that fail to adapt to new devices and methods will directly feel the effect of missed opportunities or security breaches that could have been prevented if they had a better reading of the latest tech solutions. 

What are the latest technologies having an influence on how finance departments conduct business? While the full list is long, the following trends are the main ones CFOs - even those who don't oversee IT - should pay attention to this year.

Big data getting even bigger
Big data seems to be everyone's favorite buzzword, and with an increasing number of companies taking advantage of this concept, it's likely to get even more attention in the coming months. Big data tools allow business executives to go beyond the surface and store virtually limitless amounts of data and use analytics programs to organize, interpret and utilize that information. With the expansion of these programs, executives can better track almost any statistics and use this information to predict client behavior, determine future trends and create better budgets and financial plans. 

Automated reporting tools gaining traction
Automation continues to be one of the biggest trends in business, especially in finance departments. Slowly but surely, accounts payable employees have weaned themselves off paper and company leaders are slowly phasing out manual reporting programs in favor of tools that get the job done automatically. No longer overwhelmed with as much administrative work, employees in many positions are free to spend more time on other, more important projects that could have a more direct effect on their company's bottom line.

Another perk of these new tools, as opposed to increasingly outdated software? These programs limit the risk of incorrect reporting, a problem that has become a serious concern in recent months. International financial services committees are warning businesses of the risks manual data reporting carries, and urging those business leaders who haven't upgraded their technology to put additional control systems in place to ensure no incorrect data slips through the cracks. However, these extra checks require a company to use additional resources, making it easier and sometimes more efficient to have automated tools.

Mobile workforces continue to grow 
The mobile trend has been slowly growing for years and is about to further expand its reach into workplaces. More employees than ever are using smartphones and tablets on the job or working remotely, and this trend is influencing companies across the globe. In fact, a recent forecast from International Data Corporation revealed the number of mobile workers worldwide will reach 1.3 billion by 2015. Allowing teams to use these tools enables them to work from anywhere and complete projects on their own time, meaning mobile gadgets may increase worker productivity and give them the opportunity to get more done throughout the day - yet another perk for companies looking to do more with smaller budgets.

While many organizations choose to provide their employees with gadgets for work use, many are starting to catch on to the bring your own device (BYOD) trend. This not only allows companies to save money by permitting their workers to use their personal smartphones, tablets and laptops, but also can increase employee productivity, since workers are already familiar with their devices and BYOD makes them more accessible during off-hours.

However, this tech trend also brings with it concerns, especially for CFOs worried about the security of financial information. For this reason, many businesses choose to put in place applications that track employee use of company-owned devices, or enable executives to monitor business applications installed on an employee-provided tool. This can ensure sensitive data is properly protected and workers are remaining productive even when they're working outside the office. 

Social business tools can prove beneficial
Social media and social platforms have been making a huge impact on the business world for several years, and they're becoming increasingly important. With internal social networks, instant messaging tools and company microblogs gaining popularity with more businesses, many financial professionals are seeing the benefits of these tech tools. Even those businesses that aren't directly involved in the tech industry should step up their capabilities, as social tools aren't just for firms focused on the latest technological advances anymore. 

A recent survey conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute revealed 72 percent of companies are utilizing social technologies in some form - whether they want to connect with employees or consumers. What are the benefits? Higher productivity levels, the ability to gather more useful business information, streamlined processes and better collaboration. In fact, the study indicated social technologies could improve the productivity of workers by 20 to 25 percent. 

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