Q&A: How Coupa Views the Competitive Landscape Stretching Before It in 2018 and Beyond

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It’s 2018, and competition is getting fierce.

That notion extends from the traditional — companies vying for their share of business in a particular marketplace, which, based on our interests and coverage, is procurement technology — to other considerations growing in importance, such as competing for talented workers.

We spoke recently with Leslie Campbell, a member of Coupa’s board of directors and a seasoned procurement practitioner, on the topic of fairness and gender equality in the workplace. “Leveraging each individual’s unique background and skill set to benefit the team, compensating them fairly and equally for their work, and providing the individual opportunities to grow and expand...isn’t unique to procurement,” she said, “it’s just good talent management.”

The discussion of talent management continued with Coupa’s Executive Vice President of People Ray Martinelli, and then turned to Donna Wilczek, the firm’s vice president of product strategy and innovation, on how Coupa is setting itself up to compete with industry incumbents — not to mention newcomers.

Spend Matters: How is Coupa thinking about talent management?

Ray Martinelli: We take talent management very seriously. We proactively support our employees by providing them a platform for leadership development training and coaching to help them take their careers to the next level. We understand that in order to grow and scale Coupa, we have to nurture internal talent as well as bring in new talent from outside of the company. Our philosophy is to hire the best candidates from a diverse pool of prospects.

Ultimately, our mission at Coupa is to create a diverse and inclusive environment that inspires our employees to ensure customer success, empowers them to focus on results and motivates them to strive for excellence regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, race, sexual orientation, education, socioeconomic background and religion.

SM: According to Peter Smith, editor of Spend Matters UK, M&A activity in 2017 produced a clear “big three” among mainstream software vendors: Jaggaer, Coupa and SAP Ariba. What is Coupa’s strategy to go head-to-head with the other heavies? And on which fronts?

Donna Wilczek: Our strategy is crystal clear and is premised on continuing to deliver real, measurable value to our customers. Value return has long been lacking in our industry, and we have disrupted the industry by actually delivering value back to companies around the world. Today, this has been measured at more than $20 billion in customer savings. Many of our customers have gone on the record via video recordings to showcase the actual value we are returning to their organization due to the unmatched adoption by users and suppliers.

Analysis of our deals reveals that our two primary competitors are SAP and Oracle. And we continue to win across industries and across the globe despite the competition. Frankly, we are not comparing ourselves to SAP or Oracle or anyone else in the industry as we are doing something very different: offering customers a truly unified business spend management (BSM) platform.

Our entire company is focused on execution for our path to $1 billion in annual revenue. Virtually all companies in our space are monetizing the R&D investments of decades past to appear stronger due to the size of their companies. We are instead significantly investing in R&D on the most modern, pure cloud technology platform in our market. We have distinct technology components such as fraud detection AI embedded in our platform that drives value for all our existing and future customers.

The execution of our strategy is clear. Coupa will continue to work as one team across all departments ensuring customer success with our integrated value framework — from value discovery to value realization to value optimization. Are we ready for the future? Absolutely. Are we going to continue to drive value and continue to set the BSM course? Without question, yes.

SM: How does Coupa stave off competition from other upstarts who are getting bigger, like Proactis, Tradeshift or Ivalua?

DW: There will always be small startups that focus on point solutions. However, we are delivering more value to our customers and innovating faster than anyone else in the market by offering a single, unified platform. We are doing this across the entire spectrum of business spend management from services to sourcing optimization to expenses to risk management and more. The level of data we have compiled across 600 customers, more than 3 million unique suppliers and $570 billion in spending across the last 10 years is a significant hurdle — especially given the flywheel network effect that the Coupa platform has created.

The breadth and depth of our platform is unparalleled and allows customers to replace countless point solutions across spend management processes. In addition, we have funded R&D to continue this unparalleled level of innovation. Our customers are extremely active in our advisory boards and our products’ organization is focused on pragmatic innovation that delivers real results from smart technology like machine learning and AI. Ultimately, we’ll keep our eyes focused on our customer success and their value and not on [our] competitors.

This interview has been edited and condensed. For more on Coupa’s technology solution capabilities, don’t miss the Spend Matters analyst team’s latest analysis.

Get free access to Coupa’s rankings in the latest Spend Matters SolutionMap here.

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