Innovation and leadership go hand in hand in deploying technology effectively in every organisation. The IT leaders who pushed through the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic to deploy new and exciting programmes are celebrated in the CIO50 Aotearoa New Zealand awards for 2021, announced today.\nThe 2021 CIO50 New Zealand awards ceremony was held as a virtual event due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, but the CIOs in the top ten provided snapshots of their experiences during the event.\n[ Learn the 6 secrets of highly innovative CIOs and how your CIO peers are defining and driving innovation today. | Get the latest leadership advice by signing up for CIO newsletters. ]\nNo. 1: Mandy Simpson, Z Energy\nZ Energy chief digital officer Mandy Simpson holds the No. 1 ranking, in recognition of her work in pioneering new payments technology. This included a virtual fuel tank on customers\u2019 smartphones, where they can virtually fill up at the best Z Energy price within a 30km radius, and then redeem their virtual tank at any Z Energy station or share their balance with as many as five friends and family members.\nThe judges commented that her programme of work is innovative, is customer-centric, and demonstrates effective leadership in her organisation. \u201cNow that\u2019s innovation. Some excellent concepts brought to life and by studying the customer. And that\u2019s leadership!\u201d one judge says.\nSimpson says that over the past 18 months she\u2019s been thinking about adaptability, after noticing how well people coped with the challenges brought on by pandemic and how they were able to quickly take advantage of new opportunities.\nSimpson says there are three ideas she is now taking into her strategic planning. The first is to enable space in the process for change to occur \u201cmore gently\u201d, rather than the \u201csudden and urgent change that often occurs when we\u2019ve left it a bit too long.\u201d Second, to be thoughtful about the data that they need and to ensure that they understand what they want to achieve when they go out to market with an experiment. Finally, it\u2019s important to adopt a flexible mindset, so that they are always open to ideas and that they can back themselves to take on new opportunities when they unexpectedly arise.\n\u201cIf we can pull those three things together\u2014make space in our processes, the right data and the right mindset\u2014then hopefully in future we can be adaptable in ways that aren\u2019t just when we get hit by COVID or something similar; that it enables us and the company to carry on growing in a good way for the future,\u201d she says.\nNo. 2: Brian Northern, Fulton Hogan\nFulton Hogan group CIO Brian Northern is second in the 2021 CIO50 New Zealand rankings, led a team responsible for a range of new deployments at the infrastructure and construction company, notably creating its internet of things platform. For Fulton Hogan, the value in having its own platform is that all sensor data is collected in one place from a variety of different use cases.\nNorthern says its IoT solutions are changing how the business works\u2014from manual, costly, and inefficient reactive processes to more efficient, automatic, and proactive business processes.\nNo. 3: Jason Mangan, University of Auckland\nRounding out the top three is University of Auckland\u2019s chief digital officer, Jason Mangan, who says innovation has been delivered to ensure business continuity, protect existing revenue and allow for diversification of revenue streams, and ensure the best possible experience for all customer groups (current and future students, teachers, researchers, and professional staff) through varying levels of disruption.\nThe other top 10 New Zealand CIOs\nThe other technology leaders named in the 2021 CIO50 New Zealand awards\u2019 top ten are:\n\nNicholas Fourie, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare\nRoger Jones, Auckland Transport\nAngela Nash, NZ Rugby\nAlexis Stewart, Mercy Radiology\nShayne Hunter and Michael Dreyer, Ministry of Health\nMichael Bullock, ANZ Bank\nMark Leadbetter, House of Travel\n\nTheir full profiles and achievements, along with all the IT leaders to feature in this year\u2019s CIO50 awards, can be found at our awards site\u2019s CIO50 New Zealand Awards section.\nCIO New Zealand congratulates all those who feature in this year\u2019s CIO50 Awards. We also thank everyone who contributed entries, our dedicated judging panel, and our commercial partner for the awards programme, Okta.