Know What, So What, Now What: Bridging the Gap Between Businesses and Data

BI mantra

We were recently given the opportunity to present at one of Devon’s stand out digital events – the Optix Annual Seminar. Our Founder, Phil Husbands, was invited to join the day’s panel of esteemed experts and host a business intelligence (BI) workshop.

Speaking to a packed room, Phil’s presentation focused on how local organisations can bridge the gaps between data, information and business benefits. An especially relevant topic as, with GDPR fast approaching, many of the attendees were keen to find out how they can get the most value possible from the data they have access to.

One of the key points of the presentation was Phil’s ‘Know what? So what? Now what?’ mantra, which Optix even borrowed for their own slides (cheers Alastair!). So, if you’re struggling to get value from your BI projects, we’ve explained our all-important mantra in more detail below:

Know What?
The first step in achieving BI success is to determine what the right information is for your organisation. What information do you need to know to achieve your goals and why?

Knowledge is power, so start backwards and revisit your end goals – it’s crucial that everyone knows exactly what you’re trying to achieve. You must look at what information is required to meet your goals within the context of the processes needed to get there. Ask yourself, is your BI going to have the power to influence your decisions? Is it telling you something that you can take beneficial action on? If the answer is no, it’s not BI and it’s not going to help your business improve the way it does things.

After you’ve established what the right information is, then look at how your business utilises its KPIs. Do they accurately relate to those goals? Set KPIs that are precise – these are the indicators which are going to confirm if you’re being effective and on the right track. It’s crucial to focus ahead on the target situation that you’re trying to reach, so use our concept of pre-mortem KPIs to draw on all relevant information to either prevent future issues from occurring or to find future opportunities.

Once that’s been sorted you can then move onto to your reporting methods and whether they truly support your business processes.

So What?

Now that you know what information your business needs, the next step is to determine what it’s telling you. How are you going to use it? Remember, if it’s not providing you with valuable or actionable insights then it’s not going to help your business reach its goals.

How actionable is your information? Is it going to encourage better data-driven decision making or is it simply going to misinform your people? There is little benefit in having the information to hand if you have no clue on how to interpret it. When developing BI strategies, take care to equip your team with the knowledge and confidence needed to read into the information correctly. This doesn’t mean equipping them with expensive or additional BI software though, it means taking the time to invest in developing their skill set.

Your people will need to know how they must work with data to keep your business on that path towards success. Providing them with BI training the opportunity to become in-house experts will not only facilitate a data-driven culture, but it will also empower your people to develop BI solutions that give you the value you need from data. If your business isn’t taking steps to ensure information is accurately interpreted, then your objectives are always going to remain in the distance, and not within your reach.

If you wear an activity tracker, such as a FitBit, you’re continuously presented with a summary of the day’s events. The ‘know what’ comes to you in a personalised dashboard that states how many calories you’ve burned and how many minutes you’ve been active. The ‘so what’ would be what this information is highlighting. For instance, if you haven’t met your suggested active minutes for the day, the correct interpretation would be that you need switch off the tv and put on your running shoes!

Now What?
Finally, the now what. What actions are you going to take based on the information you have? How are you going to apply it to your business in the right way?

If we stick with our FitBit analogy, the ‘now what’ would be the action you take to increase your active minutes. Heading out the door on that run will rectify the issue and prevent the problem from escalating further. The same applies in a business sense – it’s about making sure your people respond to the information presented to them in a beneficial way to drive positive business change. It’s the difference between knowing what to do, and actually doing it!

It’s equally as important to measure the effectiveness of the actions you take. Did those actions bring value to your organisation? Did they enable business growth? Did they empower your people to perform their job functions more efficiently? The trick here is not to think of the measurement of success as an afterthought, rather as an ongoing process to ensure your organisation is productive as it can be.

Our unique 4dBI methodology demonstrates how real BI creates a virtuous cycle which adapts harmoniously to the ever-changing needs of your business. Your BI capabilities need to continuously evolve to keep up with the demands of today. One successful BI project alone may bring temporary value yet it’s unlikely these effects will last. Just like with the FitBit, heading out for one run will increase your active minutes for the day but you must keep at it if you want to reap the long-term benefits and enjoy the lasting value.


We know every business can achieve genuine high-value BI. Through our bespoke training and coaching sessions, we’ll make sure your people know how to get the right information and how to use it the right way.

To discover how we can empower your organisation to drive truly valuable BI please give us a call on 01392 241214 or 020 3824 2338, drop us an email, or tweet us and we’ll get straight back to you!