Strategic Competence and Knowledge: The Twin Challenges to Digitalization and Sustainability in Organisations

In recent years, two pivotal themes have begun to dominate the business landscape: digitalisation and sustainability. Yet, despite their inherent potential, numerous organisations need help achieving these goals. The major contributing factors are the need for more strategic competence and knowledge.

Understanding Digitalization and Sustainability

Before delving into the challenges, it’s essential to comprehend what these two transformative processes entail. Digitalisation is adopting digital technologies to change a business model, leading to new revenue and value-producing opportunities. It’s about rethinking business operations, enhancing value proposition, improving efficiency, and bolstering competitive advantage.

On the other hand, sustainability is about ensuring a business’s long-term success without negatively impacting the environment, economy, or society. It involves practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Both digitalisation and sustainability are crucial to business growth and survival in the modern world. However, they can be complex to navigate, especially in their integration. This complexity is where the lack of strategic competence and knowledge often leads to roadblocks.

The Importance of Strategic Competence and Knowledge

Strategic competence refers to an organisation’s ability to formulate, implement, and evaluate strategies that lead to its goals. It requires an in-depth understanding of the business landscape, customer needs, organisational resources, etc. On the other hand, knowledge, in this context, encompasses the understanding and awareness of digitalisation and sustainability concepts, best practices, implications, and advancements.

In an ideal world, an organisation’s strategic competence and knowledge align seamlessly with its digitalisation and sustainability initiatives. However, in reality, this is often different.

The Challenges: Lack of Strategic Competence and Knowledge


The need for more strategic competence in digitalisation often translates to poor or inadequate strategic planning. Organisations may jump on the digital bandwagon without a clear understanding of how it fits into their overall business strategy or without a coherent strategy. This lack of strategic alignment can result in initiatives that do not deliver the expected benefits, leading to wasted resources and potential backlash from stakeholders.

In terms of knowledge, many organisations need more technical expertise to implement and manage digital technologies. There is also a need for more knowledge about adapting business processes and structures to a digital environment and the data security and privacy issues of digitalisation.


On the sustainability front, the need for more strategic competence often results in a disconnection between sustainability goals and business objectives. Many organisations view sustainability as a separate endeavour or a box-ticking exercise rather than an integral part of their strategy. This approach can lead to initiatives that are not only ineffective but can also harm the organisation’s reputation and bottom line.

The lack of knowledge about sustainability is also a significant challenge. Many organisations need help understanding the complexities of sustainable practices, the regulatory environment, and the expectations of various stakeholders. They may also need more data and tools to measure and improve their sustainability performance.

Overcoming the Challenges

Overcoming these challenges requires concerted effort. Organisations need to invest in building their strategic competence and knowledge. This may involve hiring or developing in-house experts, collaborating with external consultants, or partnering with academia and industry bodies.

Education and training are crucial at the leadership level and throughout the organisation. Leaders need to understand the strategic implications of digitalisation and sustainability, and employees need to know how these concepts apply to their roles and tasks.

Also, organisations need to foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability. Digitalisation and sustainability are evolving rapidly, and organisations must keep pace to stay competitive.

To summarise, the path towards digitalisation and sustainability can be fraught with challenges, many of which stem from a need for more strategic competence and knowledge. However, by recognising and addressing these challenges head-on, organisations can harness the power of these transformative processes to drive growth, innovation, and long-term success.

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