Jul 07

​Amaxra recently completed a rebrand of all of our digital assets—from our corporate website to our social media feeds to all of our employee email signatures and finally to documentation we use including our branding on our electronic signature portal on DocuSign. Is your company is considering a similar adventure? Here are three key lessons we learned from our experience:

  1. Have a rockstar team – Amaxra has always been a results-oriented business consulting company. We wanted to pivot the meditative messaging we'd used for the past couple of years to a bold and energetic new design. Leveraging cloud-based collaboration tools in Microsoft Office 365, especially the screen sharing features in Lync and the real-time co-authoring in documents, enbled us to complete our branding with a remote team that included - California, Dallas, Australia and the Ukraine. So don't just find the best people in your town, work with the best in the world!
  2. Find the optimal specifications for social media logos – We have a presence on all major social media platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. When our rockstars delivered new logos and colors, we had to update those platforms and quickly found that required a minimum of nine different media assets of varying sizes and shapes. Even within the same platform, the assets sizes can be wildly different, e.g. the dimensions for your LinkedIn page's logo can't be re-used as the logo on your LinkedIn Group page, etc. so do your homework and have your designer create multiple assets specific to each social media platform BEFORE the big re-branding push that has to happen simultaneously with a new website going live.
  3. Centralize and secure all of your online logins – If you have a summer intern manage your social media login info, then it pays to have an online password manager (we use Passpack). You don't want to ever ask "hey, is that automated security verifier sending a text to the intern we had back in 2011?"

One surefire way any company can minimize their rebranding headaches is to use Office 365. What makes Office 365 so useful during any large project is the integration of OneDrive cloud storage and collaboration tools like Lync, Yammer, and SharePoint to keep everyone in sync at all times. For anyone who used Office 2010, you will be amazed at not only how easy it is to be more productive with the work-from-anywhere versions of Excel, Word, and Outlook but also how good of a content management system the new version of SharePoint is compared to the previous version. It's so good that during our rebranding, we converted our corporate website and this blog from WordPress to SharePoint Online.

Want to find out how Office 365 can help make your company's next big project nearly effortless? Engage with us.

Jun 16

​Treat yourself to 13 minutes Shawn Achor's TED Talk. "We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity."

ShawnAchorTEDTalk.png 

Jun 16

​Great example of true teamwork & creative collaboration. Enjoy! 4 mins.

Walk off the Earth Video

Apr 02

​Bad news: Microsoft is killing off support for Windows XP (which, to be fair, is an almost thirteen year-old operating system) less than a week from today. That means your Windows XP desktops will no longer receive crucial security updates from Microsoft.

Although less publicized, all security updates are also ending for Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 on that same date. So if your business uses any of these products (and recent statistics show over 25% of all small to mid-sized companies still do), it means your company will have little protection against cyberattacks targeting your corporate email or documents.

The good news is that with cloud computing and low-cost tablets, it's never been easier and more affordable for companies to upgrade to new technology. Amaxra has helped many companies increase their productivity by migrating to the cloud-based Office 365 suite. As a certified reseller and Microsoft Gold Partner, we can manage your cloud migration project to get you off Office 2003/Exchange 2003 and onto Office 365. Even if you decided to move off Windows XP completely and now operate your business on Macs or iPads, we have cost-effective native Office for Mac and Office for iPad options that enable you to work smarter than ever before.

Don't let the death of Windows XP and Office 2003 scare you. Reach out to us and we'll get you safely into the cloud in no time!

Call 425-749-7471 or email Office365@Amaxra.com

Jan 10

​If you have teenagers, then you know about Snapchat. Even if you don't have kids, you've probably heard of Snapchat either because their 23 year-old founder turned down a $3 billion buyout from Facebook or from the scandal that had 4.6 million of the app's usernames and phone numbers posted online.

The appeal of Snapchat for teens is the app's ability to text quirky photos of yourself that are automatically deleted a few seconds after they are seen on your friends' phones. That's great for kids, but not useful for businesses—especially since the hacking of user data has made Snapchat a toxic brand for companies even considering it as part of their social media strategy.

However, there are several app developers looking to fill that market void with a "Snapchat for business" pitch. We believe these apps can be useful for innovative B2B (customer referrals that can't be put in writing due to office politics) or B2C activities (high-end retailers promoting flash sales) and have found three private messaging apps built with privacy and business in mind:

  1. Wickr – This app enables users to send photos, PDFs and text without saving any user info in the process. Although the app requires you to create an ID that is stored on their servers, Wickr claims to encrypt and "anonymize" your data before it is stored on their servers.
  2. TigerText – Designed for compliance with HIPPA and other private data regulations, this app specifically targets large companies that want an enterprise-grade ephemeral texting option for their user's smartphones.
  3. Confide – While not as strident about security as Wickr or TigerText, this app's hook is its colorful "decoder ring" styling. Messages appear as orange blocks on your phone and you swipe your finger over the blocks to reveal the words hidden underneath.

Currently, all of these apps are free for consumers and are available for iPhone and Android smartphones.

Mar 20

​Presentation design is one of Amaxra's core competencies. We have several PowerPoint designers on staff that can magically transform a presentation or document in just a few hours. Below are some of our favorite new features in PowerPoint 2013, a key component of Microsoft Office 365:

Six New Features in PowerPoint 2013 

Do you have a tight budget? The great thing about design work is even just 2 – 3 hours of cleanup time can make a big difference. Or you can pay for a bucket of hours and engage us only when you need us; having a purchase order already in place means we can respond quickly when you need some help before an important meeting or presentation.

From whiteboard to storyboard, Amaxra has content professionals that can help you create your story and apply it to PowerPoint.

Simply email slides@Amaxra.com or call us at 425-749-7471.

Oct 16

Amaxra, Inc. is firm in its commitment to giving back to society. This is one of the company's core values, and it's something I feel strongly about, so I am delighted to announce that Amaxra has found one more way to give back. Amaxra has taken yet another big step into The Green.

Of course Amaxra recycles responsibly. That's not news. And Amaxra already does something that every smart company with a smaller office staff should be doing: instead of paper or plastic disposable cups, plates, and plastic flatware, we have a kitchen cupboard filled with ceramic cups, plates, and bowls, and a drawer filled with silverware. The office team uses these, and then fills the kitchen's dishwasher with them. The result is clean, reusable dishes, and no waste. Cool but, again, not news.

Here's the news:

After doing some thoughtful research, and evaluating how much bottled water the office staff consumes on a monthly basis,  Amaxra determined that we could effectively eliminate our plastic bottle accumulation (even though they have always been dutifully recycled) by drinking tap water from plastic, filtered water bottles.  Amaxra enthusiastically chose Bobble bottles, and bought them for the entire office staff.

We made an amazing discovery about our bottled water consumption. We were buying six cases of bottled water, 35 bottles per case, every month. We did the math:  that's 2,520 bottles a year!  This means, too, that while we were not contributing the 210 plastic bottles each month to landfills because we were in fact recycling them all, we are now even more keenly aware of the ecological evils of plastic bottles.

You probably know that plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is a petroleum product. The process that manufactures these bottles uses oil, an obvious non-renewable energy source, and also increases carbon dioxide emissions.  Recyclable plastic bottles – a choice, but not a great one.

And then there's the whole tap water vs. bottled water thing. I'm with the millions of people who tacitly agree to avoid addressing much of the data; it's too scary. I don't like to think about the tap water contaminants (toxins, bacteria, etc.) that we all worry are in there any more than you do.

Too many studies have shown that bottled water (in chemical-rich plastic or in glass) does not offer a truly viable alternative to tap water.  And doesn't it irk you that about fifty per cent of the water sold in little plastic bottles is really tap water, but costs quite a bit more per gallon?

I have to remind myself that tap water in the United States, when provided by a municipal system, is still the most highly monitored (read "safe") water supply in the world. Still, I'm filled with apprehension that is not entirely unfounded.

So what's the answer? I think Amaxra hit the nail squarely on the head, and I feel better. No more bottled water at the office –we have Bobble bottles!

A Bobble bottle has a replaceable carbon filter that removes chlorine and organic contaminants as you drink. It's intended for use with municipal tap water. I can get my head around that.

These days at Amaxra, we don't go anywhere in the building without our Bobble bottles. They come in many colors. From a big picture standpoint, whatever individual color choice we've made for our water bottles, Amaxra has made it possible – and easy – for all of us to be GREEN.

It's a great way to work, and a better way to live.

Sep 27

​Are you using the right tools the wrong way? Many people use Microsoft SharePoint exclusively for storing documents. Even more people use Microsoft Excel for data gathering. What a lot of people don't know is how easily SharePoint and Excel can combine to be the perfect tool for gathering data from everyone on the team simultaneously.

SharePoint's simple web interface and collaborative features, like version control and Microsoft Office integration, make gathering, sorting and accessing data easy and effective. And don't forget — behind SharePoint is the strength and power of SQL Server. SharePoint is actually a very powerful database to store all that information.

When your data is managed in SharePoint, your whole team can be working — and making edits — at the same time and without any version control issues. This benefit alone is enough to make you want to cheer. Have you ever had somebody check out a document and then go off for lunch? Or even worse, go away on vacation?

After you've got all of your data created in SharePoint, one person on your team can consolidate the information, and then use the power of Excel (think pivot tables, sparklines, conditional formatting and more) to create wonderfully visual reports on the final data. The last piece is to then publish these visual representations of your business to SharePoint via Excel web parts. The beauty is that if the underlying SharePoint data changes, a quick refresh updates everything.

 

Now you've got the latest information, presented in the most meaningful way for your team and, even more importantly, for your management.

It's a collaborating partnership: SharePoint and Excel together. The right tools for the right tasks — not the right tools doing the wrong tasks.

 

Aug 15

​Ask anyone if he/she has sat through boring presentations and the answer is always "yes", and if needed, with numerous stories to back their claim. Ineffective and boring presentation is a pervasive problem. And, yet presentations are part of our mainstream life in business, education, politics... Almost every walk of life. Why?

There are two key reasons: First, learning how to create and deliver presentations is not part of our standard education curriculum. Most of us have had virtually no training in it. Second, we just don't realize how important presentation skills are for our success and therefore never try to do anything about it. Rather than harp on how we got here, now that we are here, let's understand the most common causes of bad presentations. I am sure you will relate to them.

Generally, presenters don't define their presentation's objective; they sort of know what they want but it lacks clarity. Yes, surprisingly this is one of the most common reasons. Think of the last time you gave a presentation or you were at the receiving end of it, and try writing down a single sentence that would clearly explain the objective of the presentation. As a presenter, the first step should be to write down the objective of your presentation.

Next, presenters often don't spend enough time or effort trying to understand the audience; most importantly, what do the audiences want. This combined with unclear objective gives rise to several other ills of a bad presentation. Because your objective is unclear and you don't know what the audiences need, the safe option is to tell them everything; don't miss a thing. That way, nothing can possibly go wrong.

Wrong!

Your audiences do not need to know everything. They are neither interested in all the details, nor can they absorb them in a presentation setting. When you try to cover too many details, audiences get busy trying to figure things out. They stop listening to you. As you move ahead in your presentation, they fall further behind and you eventually lose them.

Poorly organized material is another reason for a failed presentation and a direct result of not knowing your objective clearly. In my next week's blog, I will talk about presentation objective and this will become clearer.

Finally, many presenters think they will "wing" it. This problem gets worse as you climb the corporate ladder. Somehow "winging" it becomes something of a macho factor. Please understand, there is no substitute for hard work and you shouldn't try to wing it. As you present on the same topic over and over, your prep time may decrease and it may appear you are winging it, but the fact is there is lot of preparation that went into it to get to that point.

Creating and delivering effective presentations is part science and part art. It is one of the most important skill sets you need to learn. It will help you in more ways than you can imagine.

 

Guest author Pawan Gupta is an accomplished executive with over twenty years of proven experience in business and product strategy, negotiating alliances, developing businesses, and coaching executives in over 24 countries. He served in executive roles at Microsoft, Toshiba, bSquare, and four startups. Since 2007 he has been providing consulting services to Microsoft, Startups, and offshore companies in India. It was during these engagements he realized the tremendous need for coaching in soft-skills and started offering hands-on workshops to his clients.

Oct 08

​Amaxra is a company that embodies productivity, efficiency, and the ability to effectively communicate.  In order to provide consistency in those key elements, they have implemented the use of important tools such as Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint is a tool for helping companies quickly respond to changing business needs. It is a centralized hub where employees can share ideas and expertise, create custom solutions, and find the right business information to make better decision.  It also helps businesses reduce costs by consolidating intranet, extranet, and Internet sites on a single platform.

At Amaxra, SharePoint assists in creating a collaborative environment which supports both consultants and clients.  As a consultant at Amaxra, you are provided with your own SharePoint site which hosts all of your personal information including resume, cover letter, description of abilities etc.  With all of your information organized in one central location, it is much easier to make updates to specific documents and to quickly access valuable information to pass along to clients.  Clients of Amaxra benefit by being able to access information on consultants in a timely manner.  Therefore, Amaxra is able to provide the best qualified consultant to the client in order to deliver outstanding results.

With the help of SharePoint over the last several years, Amaxra has been able to increase efficiency and provide an effective communication tool for their consultants and clients.

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