New Coupa Release — Updated UI, Features, Same Opinionated Spend Management Attitude (Part 2)

Please click here for Part 1 of this post.

Coupa has opted to not only focus its recent release efforts on enhancing its UI and adding a number of new features (see screen shots throughout this post highlighting the updated user experience), but also on how it rolls out the solution to customers as well broader integration requirements based on different customer systems environments. Typical deployment periods are measured in weeks, not quarters (and very basic deployments can be handled in days). Coupa now has 28 pre-built connectors to various financial and related back-end systems. From a total rollout cost perspective, they've wrapped all implementation fees (including technical integration, supplier enablement, etc.) into the regular fee schedule. However, companies that require change management consulting must pay an additional fee to Coupa's partners, as these services are not provided directly.


See additional notes for screen captures/shots at the conclusion of this post

Coupa's spring 2000 release marks their 19th or 20th release overall based on how one counts the original version -- beta or GA. Like many other cloud/SaaS providers, Coupa maintains a quarterly release schedule. When it comes to design philosophy for the latest release, Coupa shared that they wanted to put the business user first, but with the caveat that in today's market, most business users also spend quite a lot of time on social networking and related sites such as Facebook (which informs aspects of the workflow and collaboration). For example, when an approver approves or rejects a particular request or requisition, they also have the option of inserting a comment. Still, despite the overall look and feel of the application (see below) the most important underlying premise was to release a version that was "simple to use" and could make the "buying and expensing" experience as seamless as possible, while ensuring all key compliance controls.

With this in mind, some ideas in the latest release were customer-driven. But many were internal. Consider changes in workflow required for one process both pre- and post Coupa's spring release -- checking on the status of a request. Previously, the old application required that users have some sense of what they were searching for -- items, suppliers, etc. The task required either background knowledge or hunting around to find out about the status of a given request. But in the new version, a user can simply walk up to the application and inquire about all open requests. It's all there in one place.

Users also now have greater flexibility and choice in how they buy -- not just in searching for open items. One of the step changes for Coupa in the latest release (which brings them up to parity with some competitors) is the ability to invoice against a contract without a PO. Now it's possible to set up contracts (including rates) and match against a contract for such categories as utilities, building leases, etc. With these new capabilities, users do not need to cram a particular requisition or purchase into a PO when a PO is not appropriate for the item. Yet they can still apply the same controls for both buying and payment authorization as if it were PO-based spend.

Despite these functional enhancements, Coupa has also made the concerted design choice to reduce the information density on a single page while prioritizing the type of information they believe is most important to users. This is an opinionated strategy and approach, but it's one built on what Coupa believes are best practices of its top users. The idea is to show the "90% of information you are likely to need" immediately upon log-on as well as the high-level details tied to certain activities (with an easy ability to drill down further). Extraneous information is also eliminated (e.g., part numbers no longer appear as "none" if they don't exist in the first place; they're eliminated entirely from display, including the header).

This design philosophy of making things easier and more up-front -- even easier than the application was before -- comes through loud and clear in the design of the search/open white bar that takes center stage in the browser window. The new "super bar" feels larger than before and beckons the user to type in what they're looking for, asking "What do you need?" See the screen shot below, which highlights the feel of the bar. Moreover, the application learns from behavior over time. It will invite "searches" for those who have shown a track record of doing their homework; for those who display a preferences for buying a certain category or service, it will jump to this area first.

Depending on user profile, what can appear under this bar is both highly informational as well as dynamic. For example, a user might see recent orders including high-level descriptions including requisition and PO numbers for PO spend. Yet the same user might also see how their budget is tracking for the category of purchases they or people on their team have made. This makes it easy to quickly see, through a basic line chart visual, how spending is hitting actual budget line items.

With its latest release, Coupa has attempted to streamline the number of clicks required to conduct basic tasks. For example, users can now create either a requisition request or file an expense report in three pages if they know what they are looking for in given transaction. For those who are interested in using Coupa to explore different options that might be available rather than simply conducting a transaction in as few clicks as possible, the search features an ability to compare information side-by-side from both approved providers and catalogs (in Coupa-speak, "integrated sites") as well as third-party sites (e.g., Amazon, Buy.com, Office Depot, etc.) through Coupa's iRequest function.

Stay tuned as we continue our analysis of Coupa's latest release (and their recent progress as a company) next week.

Screen Capture Notes

First Image -- This shows the new Coupa homepage, which features the new Search/Browse/Write bar to requisition goods and services. Coupa shared with Spend Matters that a key theme of the release is to expose "just the information that users will need, but to provide more detail when necessary". Under Recent Orders look closely and you'll see that a few of the lines do not have a corresponding PO number. Rather than have "PO: n/a", Coupa automatically hides that field. Another mechanism to not clutter the interface is to expose more detailed information when hovering over a specific area without requiring additional clicks.

Second Image -- This image captures the new Coupa checkout experience. Coupa suggests that now most fields, including billing codes and accounting periods, are defaulted in. There is also a new feature to edit all lines at once, and a visual indicator to show budget impact for each line.

Third Image -- Similar to the first image, this screen grab shows the impact of hovering over a section (budget in this case) to gain additional information rather than having to click and go to a different screen.

Last, if you'd like to learn more about Coupa's UI philosophy, you can check out this video on the thinking that went into the latest release (it's 95% useful, 5% infomercial).

Jason Busch

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