Win Big the EXA Way is the most comprehensive book written on the strategies and approaches that businesses should adopt when bidding on Canadian defence procurements. While much has been written about the politics of defence procurements, no other book provides as much information and detail about what Canada asks of bidders in industry. Win Big the EXA Way fills an important gap in the Canadian defence procurement literature, providing readers with a deep and extensive analysis of the bidding process and what factors contribute to a success.
As a defence academic and former independent reviewer of military acquisitions for government, I was humbled by how much I learned from Win Big the EXA Way. Students and scholars of Canadian defence affairs should know far more about what military procurement looks like from the vantage point companies seeking to supply the armed forces. Win Big the EXA Way guides the reader throughout the entirety of the defence procurement process, from the highest levels of government decision-making to bid evaluation criteria, down to the finer points of how to write clear and direct proposals.
Win Big the EXA Way, moreover, is required reading for anyone who doubts the integrity of the defence procurement process in Canada. The opening chapters of the book highlight the underlying fairness and propriety of Canada's procurement system and should give pause to any company who believes that there are short-cuts to success in this sector. As Win Big the EXA Way demonstrates with force and wisdom, what matters in Canadian defence procurement are strong bids that meet the requirement. No more and certainly no less.
I will assign the book in my defence procurement classes.
Associate Professor and Barton Chair
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University
Win Big the EXA Way is a tour de force revealing deep experience-based insights into the complexity and subtle and potentially misunderstood dynamics of Canada's procurement system. Regardless of what role you play within this environment, there is much to learn from this book. It is an eye-opening journey, and a guidebook toward success in the often-chaotic realm of capture and proposal discipline.
Designed for those who want to understand and excel in the complexities and subtle vagaries inherent in Canadian government procurement, the EXA Way opens your eyes to things you thought you knew. This book reveals a deeper understanding to developing and delivering capture and proposal discipline.
In summary, Win Big the EXA Way is the Moneyball of Canadian Government procurement. Guided by a deep understanding of the complexity embedded within the system, Alex shares a blueprint to design your capture and proposal teams to achieve success.
Chief Executive Officer
Capturing large contracts is an endurance event that becomes a race against time. Win Big the EXA Way gives you an edge over your competitors.
This book clearly and precisely presents the processes and leadership any company must follow to win a major tender. It describes how to showcase the benefits of your proposed solution to maximize your score against the evaluation criteria. Although the book focuses on the Canadian government market, it applies with certain adjustments to all cases where a company is selling a complex solution, including business-to-business proposals.
Win Big the EXA Way is a must-read for anyone eager to improve their win rates for large competitive contracts.
VP Programs, Business and Regional Aircraft
Thales Flight Avionics
I met Alex almost 20 years ago when my company brought him in to lead our first major defence procurement proposal. The expertise and processes Alex provided were absolutely essential for a company with only commercial bid experience. Without his guidance we would not have won the military program that ensured our company’s long-term viability. We continue to use The EXA Way processes with remarkable success in Canada and internationally.
It became immediately evident that my expertise on the program did not equate to understanding how to effectively respond to a Canadian Government procurement. The EXA Way outlines all the lessons we learned on that first big bid and many more about the unique attributes of the Canadian procurement system and how to develop proposal responses to meet those requirements. Not only does it provide specific processes and practices to develop winning proposals, the book also provides real examples that drive home the message.
This book represents a definitive reference for any company planning on participating in major Canadian Government procurements. It is also mandatory reading for government procurement practitioners as it does an excellent job of outlining how the RFP structure and evaluation approach impacts both the Bidders and the Customer.
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Cascade Aerospace Inc.
As a Capture or Proposal Leadership professional looking to succeed in a volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) filled world, Win Big the EXA Way provides a time-tested, proven, and effective approach to successful capture in Canada’s highly complex and evolving defence sector. McPhail’s book provides what every Capture and Proposal (C&P) Leader needs – a reality check about what it takes to Win Big.
Covering the complex and unique elements of Canadian Defence procurement – including the many facets of Canadian procurement law – Win Big walks C&P leaders through all aspects of the EXA Way methodology, providing real world examples of where adoption of the described ethos, practices, and strategies have led to significant successes. McPhail balances these vignettes by candidly outlining the significant risks a C&P leader assumes by neglecting critical aspects of the capture or proposal development process. After reading Win Big, C&P Leaders should never undervalue the seemingly simple meaning of the term Bidder, the challenge of simply answering the mail, the use of the passive voice and the doubt it casts, and who the client truly is – one hint: it’s not who most capture contributors think it is.
In reading Win Big, I was reminded of what’s at stake during a high pressure, must-win capture. McPhail’s decades of Capture and Proposal leadership experience shines through, conveying critical hard truths, helping C&P leaders to focus limited and precious resources in the right areas, and preventing resource waste.
Win Big is today’s Rosetta Stone for Capture and Proposal leadership within the Canadian Defence sector, providing everything from the relevant vernacular, to debunking common assumptions about Canadian procurement, and to worked examples of the application of the tools that are the foundation of the EXA way. Whether new to bidding Canadian Defence contracts or a seasoned C&P professional who has navigated the industry’s progressively complicated, difficult, and riskier RFP response process for decades, you must add a copy of Win Big to your C&P success toolbox.
Senior Manager, Proposals
Leading Defence Contractor in the Canadian Defence Sector
Win Big The EXA Way provides a thorough and authoritative overview of the skills and efforts required to win large and complex government contracts. The Procurements and Building Blocks sections offer a solid foundation that the Leadership section builds upon. The book delivers clear principles and processes that businesses and professionals require to optimize their capture and proposal capabilities, and ultimately to increase their proposals win rate.
I appreciated how this comprehensive and unique guide compared major contracts to a team sport like baseball. It takes many stakeholders beyond the players themselves to build and sustain a winning franchise. This book provided invaluable insights that strengthened my understanding of the total ‘playing field’, offering relevant overviews on topics such as Canadian procurement law, strategic capture practices and partnering, as well as the disciplines for effective capture and proposal management. This book empowered me to make better decisions and to become more confident as a key team player.
As a member of several strategic pursuit teams that followed The EXA Way, I appreciate how the author shared his vast knowledge and experience in this challenging space. The relatable case studies of the good, bad, and ugly bring meaningful life lessons to the book. I will refer to this book often!
Industrial Development and Offsets Management Professional
Win Big the EXA Way explains how to win proposals better than any other book I have read. The author takes a systematic approach to all components of Canadian RFPs, and reviews each element, such as ITB/VP's and pricing. The book then combines these elements into a comprehensive strategy where each element links to the next in a domino effect. Based on the author's deep experience, it also contains several lessons learned — both common and uncommon. This book acts as both an instructional manual and as a reference document.
One of the many benefits of this book is how it dissects the entire win strategy into several perspectives: the philosophy, the executive team, the program manager, and the engineer. The book addresses details while always steering toward the primary objective: to deliver the winning proposal. If you only read one chapter, I recommend you dig into the detailed processes describing how to analyze and respond to mandatory and rated requirements. This discussion alone will save some companies millions of dollars in proposal writing costs while increasing their win rates.
Win Big the EXA Way is a guide worth reading, and a win philosophy worth digesting.
National Defence Procurement Advisor
This is the 'Bible' on Canadian Defence Procurement, spelling out not only how to operate within the Canadian Defence Procurement system but also how to win. For the uninitiated, this is required reading. For experienced professionals who have been operating in the Canadian system for years, this is a great refresher on the process and steps required to win prior to undertaking any RFP. This book should be step one on any capture plan, for every team member involved in the process.
The real strengths of this book are in the detailed explanations centering around the capture plan process, leading to a well-thought-out and methodical approach towards the critical steps that allow the team to come together on a focused approach to winning, all the while ensuring that all factors are integrated into the process leading to a compliant and winning bid. This book clearly explains why mandatory criteria are so important to this process and how one tiny non-compliance can result in a failed bid.
The other critical area of the book that is so important to the reader concerns the explanation of the ITB/VP, or 'offsets' aspect of the process. Canada has an extremely complex offsets regime that requires careful planning and understanding of the many factors involved in each specific project. It is important to understand that the ITB/VP section of the proposal is rated and weighted in the evaluation criteria, so if not done with due diligence, it can lead to a non-compliant or losing bid when compared to a similar capability being offered by a competitor with similar capabilities. The ITB/VP components of a bid also impose requirements to do a lot of preparation in advance of a bid in order to prepare for the proposal submission. Not understanding this can lead to a doomed bid before the RFP even drops. This book prepares the reader for the long campaign associated with large complex bids.
I cannot overstate the importance of understanding all aspects of the capture process for success. 'Win Big the EXA Way' is the guide to success for any Canadian Defence and Security professional involved in the capture process.
Read it and win.
Commander (Ret’d) Brett Johnson
President, B J Johnson Consulting Services