Don't "Test Drive" eProcurement — Make the Right Decision First

I've been getting a bunch of spam emails this past week from Purchasing's Resource center, encouraging me to "Test Drive" Coupa eProcurement. While well intentioned, I could not disagree more with the concept of test driving anything remotely touching a purchase-to-pay environment. The very concept of test driving eProcurement reminds of the starter-wife (or starter-husband) concept. If it works out, great, you might say. If not, who cares? Well, I care. Marriage matters. And so does getting your P2P system right in the first place. Now, this is not a knock on Coupa at all -- their eProcurement capabilities could very well be the perfect prescription for compliance and savings success for small and middle market companies (and even larger organizations in certain cases). It's the concept of the test drive that I have a problem with.

If it was e-sourcing or another area that touched on just a few users in the organization, a test drive would make much more sense. After all, if the value was not there, you'd just move on to the next vendor or solution area. But P2P is different. P2P requires that you invest significantly in configuring -- or customizing, in the case of complex installed deals -- the technology deployment to your specifications to get the most out of it (e.g., supplier on-boarding, catalog/content management, workflow configuration, etc.)

This is even more important since upstream eProcurement and downstream invoice automation/EIPP touches a good many users inside a company -- including potentially thousands of users outside of procurement (or hundreds in the case of a small or middle market company). You've got to educate them on the process, how it works, why it's better than the old way of doing business, etc. And you've got one shot to get everything right if you want to maximize adoption without turning users against it.

Let me ask you: is this a test drive situation? Let me expand on this relationship metaphor. We all used to meet girls (or guys) in high school, college and early in our careers when we had no intention of a long-term relationship. Neither did they. We never met their parents -- and they never met ours. Pardon my directness, but many of these situations were highly transactional in nature (but at least we knew where we stood). Like e-sourcing events, the time together and underlying application functionality was largely fungible (at least in my case).

But eProcurement and broader P2P initiatives require a much more serious relationship (as does e-sourcing when you roll-out a program company-wide). Whether you like it or not, you're getting married. A starter marriage could very well scar you for life, plastering in scarlet "Failed P2P" on your forehead if you get it wrong. Don't take the chance -- and don't do a test drive. Figure out if Coupa -- or one of many other P2P providers including Ariba, SAP, Oracle, Basware, Perfect, Global eProcure, ePlus, Bellwether, PurchasingNet, etc. -- is right from the beginning. Then propose and get married before you even consider getting into the backseat of the family truckster. And save the test drive for another day.

Jason Busch

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