There can be no denying that we work in a world of exploding data: The global total of data created in 2010 very nearly doubled in 2011, and we only see this massive growth trend continuing. With big data, cloud computing and other forces transforming the world of IT, the role of the CIO has had to rapidly evolve to keep up.

The modern CIO is expected to harness the explosion of IT and big data while aligning technology to help meet business objectives. There are 4 rules for surviving in this data-driven world, and today’s most successful CIOs are following them:

Rule 1: Achieve infusion

IT, which was once considered “back office”, now drives critical elements of the business strategy; whether it’s logistical and has to do with the supply chain or involves gathering telemetry and doing analysis. Information and data must be infused into every line of the business. Critical information should be part of every core workflow and management decision throughout the business and it must be accessible when and wherever it’s needed.

We’re seeing data infusion across the board, even in unexpected industries such as agriculture, where data drives decisions based on crop measurement, weather patterns, soil conditions and other environmental variables. Achieving infusion is a must for today’s CIO.

Rule 2: Follow the light at the end of the data centre isle all the way to the executive boardroom

Aligning the explosion of IT capability with the objectives of the business means CIOs must be strategic and have boardroom influence while keeping a handle on the entire business. They cannot lurk in the background, allowing infrastructure to be viewed simply as a capital cost. IT leaders that understand the goals of the business, and use IT to create value, can no longer be considered back office.

Modern CIOs must show their worth and cement their place by developing ideas without waiting for requests from the business. Modern technology allows prototypes to be created, deployed and tested, and the IT department is expected to answer questions before they’re even asked, while bringing new ideas to the table. We’re no longer in a time when IT is simply helping with elements of the business. IT has evolved to be a key engine that helps drive a company’s overall strategy.

Rule 3: Know how to extract from your data pile

If data is a treasure, you’re not rich until you work out how to get it out of the cave. CIOs have access to a never-seen-before array of data sources and information assets. Data volume has always been a challenge, and big data isn’t really new, but what is new is the requirement that data interpretation be a core business competency.

It’s not just an issue of “is your application always available”, it’s a question of “is your data pile always available?” If you’re sitting on a “data pile”, you’re probably doing it wrong. Modern businesses must be able to extract value from the vast amounts of available data sources and information assets they’re faced with.

Rule 4: Treat your data centre as a symphony

As manufacturing has shown us through the years, total integration and building everything in one place is not necessarily the right method. IT is no different. The idea that “everything is done here and all applications and all capabilities get created in one organisational stack” is long gone.

Today’s IT leader is in many ways like an orchestra conductor, responsible for making lots of pieces of technology work together in harmony. However, the audience to whom the IT leader plays often has a lot of individual requests and dictates the need for rapid evolvement.

CIOs must prioritise the sections they really want to focus on and identify those that can be handled by partners. Even with all the complexities CIOs face, some are still designing data centres and managing suppliers, standardising server specs and configuring devices.

The most successful CIOs are looking to off load the burden. According to recent research carried out by Vanson Bourne, 76 percent of organisations globally believe the majority of their IT infrastructure will be outsourced within 10 years. CIOs need to orchestrate this move. Outsource IT to allow the business to thrive or focus in-house IT on innovation that’s core to a business.