TL; DR: Blankfactor’s very own business analyst, Anton Piralkov, clarifies what the role of a business analyst can do for any company. He also shares a definition of the job along with his personal background and interests. We’re getting an inside scoop as to a business analyst’s vision and work as he also stresses what Blankfactor is doing well as a company, and what it can do further to improve even more.  

As a new entry to our World-class Talent Series of our blog, we’re interviewing Blankfactor’s business analyst, Anton Piralkov. Based out of Bulgaria, Anton brings rich experience in different industries, including tech. He has worked for big companies such as Google and Facebook and has now brought insight to our team. 

His ability to grasp the interconnectedness of different processes, his astute perspective on various fields of business, and his understanding of the human scale have made him an instant partner to our engineers. He’s also a great example of how a calm, intelligent, and open-minded individual in a new environment can endorse constructive change. 

Anton’s different perspectives, which he offers in a respectful manner and not as an imposition from a different system, pave a long way towards enriching the culture we want to maintain at Blankfactor. Explore with us what Anton’s business analyst view is on our company, as well as learn more on what the business analyst role can do for any company in general. 

We’re starting with context. Anton, could you share with us a bit about your background and interests, please?

I was schooled in strategy, management, and finance mostly in the U.S., and I started my career as a financial analyst in that territory. I’ve run a government agency, managed the investor relations of the largest public telecom in Southeastern Europe, then ran the operations of a Swedish TV broadcaster, a few online companies, had my own management consulting business in Canada, and worked for Google out of Poland. 

I’ve lived in many countries and worked for industries and functions as diverse as management, strategy consulting, finance, business development, telecom, media, and advertising. I was even in the military! A semi-pro rock musician, I also had an English school for 3-year olds.

My passions and interests are both in the structured domain of strategy, management, finance, and tech and in the more creative fields of communication and people relations. Aside from the business analysis and corporate spaces, I enjoy the arts and creating music, written words, and drawings, but, most of all, I enjoy spending time with my kids, family, and friends.

What’s the role of a business analyst and what can it do for a company, Anton?

A business analyst (BA) should be bridging the gap between the business and information technology (IT) fields through a disciplined approach for introducing and managing change. They use data analytics to assess client processes, determine their requirements, and deliver data-driven recommendations and reports.

Analysts engage with business leaders and users to understand how data-driven changes to software, hardware, tools, processes, and products or services can improve efficiencies and add value. They should also balance these against what’s technologically feasible and financially and functionally reasonable.

Often, BAs create models that support business decisions. In this task, they work closely with business/finance and IT teams to establish initiatives and strategies that improve reporting and optimize costs. Therefore, a strong understanding of regulatory and reporting requirements, experience in forecasting, budgeting and financial analysis, and understanding of key performance indicators is required.

And what skills would great BAs need to have, then?

BAs also need to have strong soft skills as they act as the link between the business and IT, as well as between external clients and the company. Hence, a background in either business or IT is usually very helpful for a BA.

Last but not least, a great BA should never forget their own company could very much benefit from their analytic skills and advisory capabilities. The BA’s experience will always come in handy to spot a potential improvement area or a need for a change in their own surroundings. What’s more, a BA should be the whistleblower and initiator of discussions and efficiencies in this direction. Who else within a company would be better suited for this, after all?

How are you exercising the role of a business analyst at Blankfactor?

At Blankfactor, I started wearing more than just one hat. Nominally, I’m a Business Analyst, but, while trying to be useful in areas I saw a need, I ended up working on many corporate affair items, such as our public image, content, learning program, advising talent on client communication and project work, interviewing candidates for communication and project skills, and many other interesting tasks.

In your opinion and experience as a business analyst, what’s Blankfactor doing well and what can it improve?

What really impressed me and continues to impress me every day is Blankfactor’s culture. I honestly mean it. In my humble experience as manager of companies and teams, I’ve never encountered – in any industry or setting, nor was I able to help establish – such a positive environment of trust and comradeship. As a strategy consultant, I had the chance to work with many organizations in diverse countries and fields, but none of them even came close to what Blankfactor has been able to achieve in this regard so far.

Academic scholars have long been researching what and who is the reason for a successful and positive work culture. I believe that, in all cases, the mother of all reasons is one: managers. Everything always works in a top-down fashion. If you have a toxic, mean person managing a team, it’s gone in 6 months. 

In any industry, however, a well-intentioned and compassionate human being with just modest organizational and management inclinations and experience (not even that much of an expert in the very field, really) can help create a team that’s happy, motivated, goes the extra mile, and is willing to jump in the fire for their peers, boss, and project. People leave and stay because of people.

So, what’s been achieved here in terms of corporate culture is seemingly intangible, but practically beneficial and critical for success. It’s really spectacular.

Where Blankfactor’s success comes from a business analyst perspective.

A possible reason for having such a motivated and coherent team, in general, could be that a large portion of our colleagues are internal referrals. There’s enough previous trust already there. But one thing is also certain: our recruiters are doing great choosing candidates who are an immediate fit. This applies both culturally and technically. It literally only takes people days; I see this every week. Usually our new colleagues start on a Monday, and then, on Wednesday, they’re already comfortable and at ease with the team and management. I can sense that clearly.

Our developers have a positive and inclusive communication. I always see them in small or larger bunches. They’re discussing tech solutions, exchanging ideas, planning projects, simply chatting over coffee or sitting by the tennis table. I envy their discipline, too. Even though they can pick flexible hours and home days, almost all of them are here at 9 in the morning, razor-sharp. I think they see practical benefits to that culture and genuinely enjoy coming into the office.

We shouldn’t miss saying how our sales and business development people are another big part of our success. I don’t know who they are and how they do it. They’re mostly located in the U.S.. But selling our service in such a competitive environment couldn’t be anything short of extremely hard. However talented you can be as a developer, you’re out of business if someone doesn’t sell your service well. Our Sales Teams deserve great respect and support.

What’s right and what can be improved: Management consultant insight

Figuratively speaking, I’d think our business model suggests 30% of our success depends on selling ourselves. Another 30% lies on attracting and keeping the best talent. Yet, an additional 30% depends on this very talent being helped to perform their best. There’s probably a remaining 10% that’s needed to manage the whole magic.

As a management consultant, I’d advise that, as of now, everything works very, very well – both practically and culturally. And it’s quite rare for a team to achieve this. Keeping an eye on everything, paying attention to Sales and helping them whichever way possible will help the next steps. 

Also, keeping up the good job recruiting. Doing HR and retaining will continue to make sure everyone is happy by treating them as well as we do today. And training people. It’s critical not to pollute this system unnecessarily by pushing too many buttons at the same time. It’s also important not to allow corporate items to take the current creative empty space of freedom. The company just needs to continue to be so friendly and positive! It pays off both in the short and the long run.

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