Strategic partnerships and big data are seen as keys to success and sustainable growth for organizations, according to a new survey of business executives by Frost & Sullivan.

The firm surveyed more than 300 CEOs and other business leaders across the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Africa, and found that 53% cite an intensifying competitive environment as the biggest external threat to growth.

However, most organizations are unable to adequately involve competitive intelligence/corporate strategy teams for mitigating this challenge.

“As global economic ecosystems experience intense transformation driven by digitization and resulting change of focus from products to services, new opportunities for growth and innovation are emerging,” said David Frigstad, chairman of Frost & Sullivan. “However, leveraging these opportunities requires visionary leadership that can realize growth strategies and vision congruence,” he said.

Companies that do not embrace disruption or fail to focus on innovation and growth, integrate new business models, and align with customer needs will find themselves increasingly marginalized, the report said.

Nearly 34% of CEOs indicate that the speed of technology change represents a real and immediate challenge. Technology strategies, along with strategic partnerships, are seen as central to growth over the next three years. “Digital transformation, including intelligent data analytics, convergence, connectivity and digital consumers, is compelling CEOs to develop innovative tools and strategies in order to deliver on dynamic stakeholder expectations,” said Sandeep Kar, Frost & Sullivan global head of content transformation.

“One key takeaway from this survey is that implementation has to start early and consistently,” Kar said.

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