Disruptive technology and innovation have emerged as major threats to established businesses, and as such are at the forefront of the CIO agenda as technology leaders seek to defend their organisations and disrupt their competition. [See also: Business and technology innovation - The 2015 CIO review]

At the Talent Unleashed awards on September 3, a judging panel which included Sir Richard Branson, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and former Boots CIO Jonathan Vardon recognised CIO 100 members Phil Jordan, the Telefonica Group CIO, and Rentalcars.com CIO Graham Benson as winners of its inaugural 'Most Disruptive CIO' category. The shortlist included fellow CIO 100 members Joanna Smith of Royal Brompton NHS Foundation Trust, Yodel CIO Adam Gerrard, and Moneysupermarket CTO Tim Jones, as well as Barclays CIO Darren Earnshaw.

Benson said: "We are built on being disruptive and therefore we encourage and embrace innovation throughout the business, actively investing in creativity throughout the organisation."

Organisers of the awards, Talent International, gave CIO UK an exclusive look at the judging process and what CIOs and CTOs had to say on remaining agile enough to cope with the disruptive threats posed by new entrants in their respective industries.

1. Be a disruptor and drive innovation

"The CIO needs to be leader in identifying and driving innovative processes for the company, which will ultimately drive a competitive advantage and increase profitability. CIO should be the disruptive threat."

2. Learn from new entrants

"The first thing CIOs should do is be vigilant and receptive to new entrants into their market, no matter how small they look. It is beneficial to acknowledge and learn what new entrants are bringing new to the table than to ignore them. Keeping track of new market developments is a sizeable task in itself, and can’t only be the responsibility of the CIO alone."

3. Horizon scanning

"Taking time out to perform horizon scanning or looking out at the future technology landscape and ask the question how will that new thing impact my business, my customers, my supply chain, my revenues, my profits? Run through those thoughts with the CEO and other key board members. Educate the board. CxOs need to develop their understanding of technology now more than ever before. Finally, get on the front foot. Don’t wait for disruption to happen to you, go out there and be a disruptor!"

4. Think like a startup

"Proactively seek to think like a startup. Think about the verticals and markets you are in; how would you disrupt either your business if your were a new competitor, or indeed distrupt the entire industry? Run regular sessions internally to consider what thee disruptions might be. In some cases empowering a team separate from the core to go ahead and indeed take the main business head on."

5. Foster a disruptive culture

"CIOs need to continually create a culture that promotes internal positive disruption, even on a small scale, this can be fundamental to break a routine and cycle that will otherwise allow people to become settled into a job function and to accept things as they are. Ultimately we're looking to reinvent our own solutions and break our best technology innovations before a competitor does."

6. Get Agile

"If organisations seek to deal with the threat of new entrants by spending too much time watching what they are doing and then reacting, they're likely to be too slow to respond: large organisations are rarely agile enough to compete with a truly disruptive change in the market. Far better they focus on their own approach to destroy their current best products and services with something new. This is largely achieved through relentless focus on culture and organisation mindset."

7. Speak to new starters

"After new starters have been in the organisation a few weeks ask them what they would change - and then ask yourself if the business is agile enough to try it? New entrants will not have your bias or hang ups over implementing cutting edge technology."

8. Be a leader

"Technology must always be an enabler, never a barrier. This requires the CIO to be several steps ahead in terms of understanding the art of the possible and what the competition is doing. The CIO needs to spot the opportunities and guide and support their colleagues to turn them into realities. The CIO must be an organisational leader, not the Head of IT and this is a mindset not a position."

9. Avoid somnambulism

"There is a real danger that market leaders or incumbent businesses in any sector sleep walk into a mindset of conservatism and protectionism. This mindset leads to change aversion and less and less true innovation."

10. Collaborate, inspire and stretch the IT team

"There is a need to ensure that the IT team stays sharp, collaborative, engaged and effective at running the systems of the day as well as contributing value back into the business by enabling and enacting change. Really engage with the team, develop them, stretch them, grow them and inspire them. Instil a culture of pace and collaboration."

11. The CIO as an enabler

"The role of a technology leader in an organisation is moving quickly, away from being the curator of hardware and software, and towards enabling adoption of disruptive business models. Spotting the combination of vectors of disruption is not easy, but the pace of change is such that the risk of ignoring them can be deadly. The CIO has a unique position looking across the business and should develop the skills to spot technology disruptors and provide ways for their colleagues to address them. This is a turning point in the technology leadership role and one that must not be missed."

12. Have a fast technology platform

"In practical terms, create and adopt technologies at every tier in your stack that foster speed of execution."

13. Engage business stakeholders

"Become a trusted and respected advisor to the business through the delivery of practical, cost effective change that provides clear and demonstrable business benefit. To succeed a CIO must fully engage with all business stakeholders, keep up to date with new technology and business trends and deliver exceptional service and value to the business."