Coupa Inspire Dispatch: Musing on Partnerships, Accenture and More

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On stage this morning at Coupa Inspire, Rob Bernshteyn spent less than a minute thanking the partners who sponsored the event as he sped through a ton of material spanning the history of Coupa to its philosophy to recent investment areas. Nonetheless, it was 30-40 critical seconds of his talk.

The partner slide he referenced was impressive – in more ways than one. As a start, Accenture was listed as an event sponsor (for the first time), and we suspect it is doing more with Coupa than most are aware. No doubt, whether official or not, this is a critical partner “win” given Accenture’s legacy in working with Ariba/SAP to the exception of other P2P providers.

Beyond Accenture, Coupa recently announced its new/updated relationship with IBM (see our previous coverage here and here). The IBM relationship is a complex one, as IBM is reselling Coupa, and Coupa will be helping position IBM’s solution as well in theory – we suspect the behavior will be different in the field. Still, the partnership provides validation for Coupa while giving IBM a go-to P2P partner to work with (the IBM team also works with jCatalog, Vroozi and others in the P2P and catalog management areas, either informally or formally).

Other Coupa consulting and SI partners continue to build momentum and practice size. These include KPMG and Deloitte. Incidentally, we talked to a KPMG customer last night who spoke in terms of their consulting partner as more than just a systems implementer of Coupa, but really orchestrating and managing the entire roll-out, deployment and scaling process – a managed service on top of Coupa if you will.

There are many others in the Coupa partner ecosystem that we can’t do justice to in a short dispatch – including BPO partners as well as boutique firms like Shelby Group. But most important, Coupa has cracked the code on developing SI and consulting partners, both large and small. The partner ecosystem is alive, well and growing with the biggest names in the business.

As an aside, it is important to note for those who are not close to the consulting world that building a tech practice around a particular vendor is often close to a zero sum game in the vendor ecosystem (not quite, but close). Trust me on this – my wife (and our CEO) used to run a series of supply chain partnership for an SI back in the dark ages of P2P (and I worked on putting these together in a former life for a vendor).

The 2 of us know that the decision to prioritize partners and resources over alternatives is often a trade off. It has to be given scarce resources and the need to place bets. Given this, perhaps the partner/SI elephant in the room here is that Ariba/SAP appear to be declining from the SI and consulting investment in favor of Coupa, among others, as a go-to vendor to build a practice around.

Curiously, I spoke to an executive last night looking at moving off of Ariba to Coupa (ironically, we actually spoke at a consultant/SI-hosted cocktail hour). The rationale is in part the cost (Coupa is less expensive), but also because of the entire supplier fee structure question.

Along with this and related anecdotes and the consultants putting their practice development and investment money chips on Coupa, I sense a shift may be happening (I want to hedge with an emphasis on “may”). The deeper irony of this, of course, is that Ariba/SAP is finally beginning to role out a new set of innovations including its enhanced UI among other areas.

Still, there is change in the consultant and SI procurement ecosystem tech air. That’s for sure.

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