Coupa – game changers in P2P technology? (Part 1)

We reported here the appointment of Alex Kleiner to lead Coupa’s move into Europe.  They have a cool website that includes a “video game” (which I couldn’t actually work out how to play...) and lots of interesting material. It also claims that their products are “easier to use, faster to configure and deploy, and more cost-effective than anything available today”.  Is that a reasonable claim?

To find out, I had a chat to Kleiner and a demo of the Coupa product recently – the first time I have seen in action rather than merely talking or reading about it. So this week we’ve got three posts about the firm – looking today at some features of their product, then the principles and thinking behind it, and finally their entry into Europe and market issues.

Well, the first thing that strikes you if you take the demo is that it doesn’t look at all like a “traditional” purchase to pay eProcurement system. It looks like Amazon.  Or Tesco.com. Or (in places) Facebook. The whole user-interface is designed to resemble a B2C web commerce or social media site  rather than the usual ERP type screens.

Coupa walked me through a typical requisitioning situation – let’s say you want to order or requisition a laptop.  There’s a simple search facility, and you’ll see pictures of the various options facing you. The options have of course been defined by procurement through user rules. You can narrow down searches as you can with consumer websites – so start with laptops, then restrict by manufacturer, or type.

There are drop down menus with more information. You can set up favourites, and put your selections in shopping carts; the whole style and terminology is based on consumer sites and very intuitive and user friendly. You can give ratings to suppliers or products, and write user reviews – all familiar features frpm the consumer world, but not for business to business commerce.

On the governance side, the internal policy on laptop procurement will appear o nthe screen, with all the expected process steps, so routing for approval can be set up however it is required. That approval can be done via iPad or phone – without the need for another app. The process then goes through to two or three way invoice  matching.

There’s real time linking to budgets as well, so you can see exactly what impact a purchase has on the budget situation.  While the key controls are in place, the whole experience looks so easy for the end user / requisitioner that I’m sure it would avoid the cry so many of us have heard over the years – “do I really have to jump through all these hoops just to order a laptop / some stationery / a new chair?”  So an initial at least tick in the box on that Coupa “easy to use” claim.

As well as procurement, the product is designed to handle expense management – reporting of travel and other personal expenses.  We didn’t go into this in detail, but again there are novel and useful features – integration with Google Maps for instance, to check mileage claims! You can take a picture of your receipts on your phone, then drag and drop the pictures into your expense claim – all neat stuff.

One area where Coupa is unique in my experience is its “judgemental” stance.  You can almost look at it as software with a personality. That comes through particularly strongly in the expense management area.  You’ll get a “compliment” back from the system for instance if you submit expenses under the allowed level. It will also carry out a risk analysis on expense claims and indicate users who perhaps regularly go over limits or claim more than the norm. That flag can then stimulate a manual check of the claim.

And even in the procurement area, this personality carries through – do I want my system to say “look at you with nothing to do” when I clear my “to do” list? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly different!

More tomorrow..

Voices (6)

  1. Dom:

    I concur (excuse the pun!) with Tony and as a partner of Coupa we also have been extremely impressed with the offering, as have our clients. We have researched a number of cloud based offerings across a number of different functions (Procurement, Help Desk, Asset Management to name but a few) and I do see Coupa changing the market in P2P in the same way Service-Now have for IT
    Look forward to part 2…

  2. Tony Lockwood:

    The Coupa solution is by dar the most intuitive P2P spend management solution on the Market. As their UK partners, you would expect me to say that though wouldn’t you!

    However, when we were looking for a partner to help us to provide an integrated spend management solution to our clients, we did look at many of the providers, both uk based and overseas. Without doubt, the Coupa solution came out on top.

    The ease of use, the simplicity of the interfaces and the integration of the core elements of total spend management help to set it apart. Moreover the Coupa team are innovative and hungry for success and as such, much more willing togo the extra mile than some of the more established competitors.

    By integrating Coupa to our overall spend management solution, we feel that we can offer a game changing results to clients who are looking for sustainable long term benefits that don’t rely on supplier squeeze to deliver.

    The feedback fro clients os far as been amazing.

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