Coupa on Second Generation P2P, Group Buying and Further European Growth

coupa_small_0We mentioned recently Coupa's acquisition of a small Australian invoice automation firm, InvoiceSmash (!) It is another step in the firm’s strategy to simplify the whole transactional process between buyers and sellers. Jason Busch wrote an excellent article here on the deal, including comments from Rob Bernshteyn, Coupa's top man, so rather than duplicating that we'll just refer you to that article if you want to know more. Coupa also announced a new hub in Dublin, which is bringing 120 tech jobs to that fine city.

Alex Kleiner

On his recent flying visit to the UK, Jason Busch and I caught up with Alex Kleiner (pictured here), Coupa’s top man in Europe, and Ronan Kerouedan, their European VP of Solutions Consulting, for a general update which threw out some interesting points. We started with the basics, and the firm's impressive growth appears to be continuing. Kleiner says “the spend that has gone through the platform from UK & European companies this year is greater than all previous volume” which is a pretty astonishing statistic. There was also a record number of go lives and new customers added in Europe in Q2.

We then asked if there are significant differences between countries in Europe, in terms of requirements and approach. (It’s worth saying that although Kleiner is an American, he has lived in the UK for many years now, and Kerouedan is French.) "Not really," was the answer – even in France, a nation of engineers, who “like complexity,” the Coupa message of simplicity and ease of use has been well received.

We then got into an interesting discussion about where we are in the long-term cycle of eProcurement adoption. “Organisations are stepping back now and reviewing their situations,” says Kleiner. Many eProcurement projects have failed, perhaps a higher proportion in Europe than the USA because of the added complexity within international environments. So often Coupa (and other firms of course) are bidding for “second wave” implementations. In these projects, spend capture is still an issue, but factors such as consumerisation and simplification are often right at the top of the priority list.

It is also key to appreciate the differences between countries in the European markets – so whilst keeping to their principles of simplicity and a single instance platform, Coupa are offering multiple options that may suit different organisations and countries, and flexibility through “web forms that require minimal set-up” for instance.

One Coupa initiative which I confess was new to me is Coupa Advantage. That is in effect Coupa acting as a "group buying organisation" as they tend to be called in the US. In the UK, the major examples tend to be public sector collaborative bodies - think Crown Commercial Services, YPO, ESPO, etc. So Coupa offers to the users of their network a range of pre-agreed suppliers and products at (hopefully) favourable prices. Advantage is less advanced in Europe but is on the way: “we are rolling out the Advantage programme, but suppliers are less familiar with the model here than in the States.”

Another topic we covered was how Coupa is working with partners and building an eco-system. The firm has consciously decided not to build a major services arm, so it is working with quite a number of firms now in terms of implementation and support – from the global giants such as KPMG, Deloittes and Accenture, to regional players such as Xoomworks in the UK. And of course there is the IBM partnership, announced recently. "Generally clients are using SIs (system integrators) or equivalent but we know one French firm who rolled out the platform in China without any external help,” says Kleiner.

In what seems like a smart move, Coupa (and their clients) aim to incentivise the SIs on delivery, not time and materials. Good advice for any professional services assignment of course. "We spend a lot of time with partners during the pre-sales phase, and many clients see a Coupa implementation as part of a wider and bigger transformation, so the role of the partners can be vital."

A final interesting point. Coupa see more deals being driven by the CIO now, and also a lot more involvement of the business in product evaluation and selections. Now both of those are probably positive in themselves for organisations, but with our procurement hat on, and bearing in mind our recent "procurement is doomed" discussions, it seems important to us that procurement takes a leading role in these vital decisions around selecting and implementing what is basically procurement technology.

After all, if you are not interested and involved in getting the right systems to support the fundamental procurement and spend management activities in your organisation - then what exactly is your role?

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