More is being asked of every CIO today," notes Geoff Lawrie, managing director of Cisco New Zealand.

Projects, security, mobility are just some of the areas they are expected to work on, he states.

"All of these things have a fair degree of challenges in delivering them," says Lawrie.

"But what it highlights is that information technology and CIOs play an absolutely critical role in enabling the success and future success of the organisation."

Speaking at the CIO100 event in Auckland, Lawrie cites IBM's latest global CEO survey in which respondents picked technology as the single biggest factor that is going to have the biggest impact on organisations.

"If any of you were concerned how you would become more relevant or make IT more relevant to the CEO, let me assure you, you are pretty much front and centre already," says Lawrie to the more than 130 CIOs at the event.

Related: Who made it to the 2014 CIO100 list?

"When you see CEOs thinking how they will drive productivity more efficiently... they are thinking first and foremost how IT can help effectively with that."

CIOs have an incredible opportunity in front of them to position IT for absolute organisational leadership. And this, he says, is through a technology that is "disrupting everything" -- connectivity.

He says the combination of greater connectivity of people and things (the Internet of Things) is creating more data that can be used for smarter operations across sectors, including manufacturing, mining and governments.

Cisco estimates that $19 trillion can be gained in the next 10 years for organisations that are able to harness people-to-people (P2P), machine-to-people (M2P) and machine-to-machine (M2M) connections, in what it calls the 'Internet of Everything'.

A "personal favourite" of Lawrie is agriculture. "We are in front of the curve in New Zealand in our ability to connect our livestock, pastures, and stock processing systems with weather forecasting systems," he says. "This will help lead us to the most productive agriculture transformation in this planet."

Other speakers at the annual CIO100 event -- where the results of the research into the top 100 ICT-using organisations in New Zealand were presented -- who expounded on leading through various business technology trends include: Marcus Darbyshire, vice president, executive partner, Gartner Executive Programs; Martin Catterall, CIO, St John; Claire Govier, CIO, healthAlliance; Geoff Beynon, country manager, SAS; and Ian Forrester, managing director, Plan B.

Being data driven

SAS's Beynon says the explosion of data is creating a new role for the CIO, "one that is going to allow you to contribute directly to the success of your organisation".

Data assets are potentially spread across the organisation, he says. "The role of the CIO is to go out and bring the data pieces together, to bring a 360-degree view of the customer."

Data is the single most important and valuable asset of any business, notes Plan B's Forrester.

In the Industrial Age, he says, the most valuable companies were those with significant physical assets.

"Things are different in the Information Age," he declares. The value of intangible assets has grown significantly in the past 40 years from less than 20 per cent of a company's value in 1975 to more than 80 per cent today.

"Data is intangible and the foundation of the growth in the value of intangible assets," he states. "It is unique and irreplaceable. If you lose your laptop you can go to Noel Leeming and buy a new one. Unfortunately, it is not the same for data."

The CEO, therefore, is the custodian of a business's assets, so responsibility for protecting its most valuable asset -- data -- starts with the head of the company. "They need to lead from the front," Forrester says.

For CIOs, he says, it is important to let the business decide what risk they are willing to take rather than IT becoming the scapegoat.

"You can't back up everything," he states. "Make sure you let the business decide what is important and what is not, what to back up and what to leave out.

"Don't let a member of your team decide because if that happens to be the secret formula for Coca Cola, you are in trouble."

It is also important to choose your partners well for data management, he says. "You wouldn't fly on a plane that was serviced by a part-time mechanic. So why trust a partner with backing up your most valuable asset?"

Be the CEO of your brand

Gartner's Darbyshire calls on CIOs to take stock of their personal brand.

"We are CEOs of our own companies," says Darbyshire, echoing the words of Tom Peters, who wrote: "To be in the business today, our most important job is to be the head marketer for the brand called 'You'."

But why do it? "CEOs expect IT to power the business into new markets and digital channels," says Darbyshire. "To be successful in this, CIOs must build a strong personal and department brand, as credible providers of both core IT services and digital business solutions."

The process, takes time, effort, investment, and focus to construct, he says.

One place to start is to do a search of your big data footprint, says Darbyshire, who was a CIO before joining Gartner. "Google yourself, sum up your digital life. What does it say?"

Darbyshire says a personal brand has five elements:

" Purpose -- why people follow you

" Social style -- the way people see you

" Communications -- the way people hear you

" History -- how people evaluate you over a long period

" Versatility --- the way people relate to you and how you relate to them.

CIOs can use these as tools to reinvent themselves and their brand into a "powerful digital asset" to the enterprise, he says.

The D-suite

The event ends with a synopsis of what lies ahead for CIOs:

Digital, data, disruption.

The imperative is for the C-suite to shift to what the CIO Executive Council calls the 'D-suite'.

This refers to traditional C-suites remodelling or refining themselves to become digital savvy C-suites or D-Suites. To succeed in this transformation, it states, there has to be a pathfinder or champion. It is a role more CIOs will be taking on in the months ahead.

Related:CIO100 2014 Overview: Leading across channels

See more photos of New Zealand's business technology leaders at the CIO100 event

The CIO100 2014 event is sponsored by Cisco,(Platinum sponsor), Plan B and SAS (Gold sponsors), Datacom (Survey sponsor) and Snap (Table sponsor).

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Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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