In today’s highly competitive global market, innovation is enabling companies of all sizes to achieve competitive advantage. Apple’s development and success with iTunes has helped it become the world’s largest music retailer.

Meanwhile, newcomers continue to shake up industries such as financial services and private transportation with entrants such as PayPal and Uber which have captured consumer interest with easier customer-centric experiences.

In many cases, technology has played a critical role in helping innovative companies to get a jump on competitors and catch traditional industry players off guard. For instance, Walmart has been widely recognized for its sophisticated use of IT to replenish inventory at lightning speed.

The CIO can play an essential mission in enabling the enterprise to take advantage of emerging technologies and drive innovation ahead of the market. One way is through the CIO’s role as the technology gatekeeper for the organization.

As the enterprise’s technology leader, CIOs are privy to the latest technological developments that are unfolding. Because of their role in the organization, CIOs are often courted by technology startups, rising market players, venture capitalists, and other types of companies regarding the latest technologies hitting the market. CIOs who have a solid understanding of their company’s business and the opportunities represented by new technologies can advise the CEO and other members of the C-suite about possibilities for leveraging new or emerging technologies to beat competitors to market with new services or capabilities.

A great example of this is how Allianz is using analytics to launch a new set of insurance products. According to InformationWeek, the company’s subsidiary in Italy is able to generate auto insurance quotes for prospects based on just two pieces of information – a license plate and a driver’s date of birth.

Access to hot technologies is one of the ways that the CIO delivers value to organizations seeking a competitive edge.

Because of their unique perspective across the interconnections between various business units in each corner of the enterprise, the CIO can also identify opportunities for applying technology and improving processes that can help the company separate itself from the competition.

Consider how Amazon sends proactive notifications to customers that have ordered a product more than once. When a customer places an order for a book or a CD they previously purchased, Amazon will send a message asking the customer if they intended to buy the same product again.

By capturing and matching a customer’s order against their previous purchase history and then notifying a customer about a repeat order, Amazon has been able to differentiate itself in the market and strengthen customer trust and loyalty by notifying customers about potentially unintentional purchases.