New Coupa Release — Updated UI, Features, Same Opinionated Spend Management Attitude (Part 3)

Please click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

When someone with experience in P2P, VMS and direct material purchasing starts using the latest version of Coupa, they're likely to note that the application was designed from the ground-up to serve as a front-end to all purchases and to interface with others systems as required. Many other systems -- ERP is often the worst culprit here -- require that you know what you're looking to buy (services, indirect, direct, etc.) before deciding what application to log into or which bookmark to click on. With Coupa, you simply start shopping, using it as a front-end interface to internal systems and catalogs plus external sites and vendors. Given this flexibility, it's not surprising that services make up a large percentage (over 50%, with some users) of the overall dollar volume of spend going through the application. If we contrast this with other P2P tools, the difference of how folks are using Coupa becomes clearer. Coupa also integrates a solid T&E application into P2P (see photos below).

The latest integrated T&E release includes the concept of an online wallet and integration services, allowing users to pull down transactional data from multiple financial institutions (e.g., personal cards, corporate cards, etc.). Users can also take a picture of a receipt and email it to the system and it goes into the user's wallet (editor's note: let's hope the typical user's wallet in Coupa is more organized than my own). Outside of taking photos of receipts, users can also email documents (e.g., airplane ticket receipts) and upload PDFs, etc. It's then easy to drag and drop particular items within the T&E application (and online wallet) into an expense report. Having watched a demonstration of the application, it's clearly an idiot proof T&E toolset. Trust me, I'm talking here as the idiot who has struggled with more than one T&E system in his day. Anyone should be able to walk up to it without training or even using online help.

Additional commentary on screen captures/shots is available at the end of the post

Coupa's now infamous "frugal meter" is still included, telling employees whether or not a particular T&E line item looks to fall within corporate norms or not. Those line items which are particularly low (e.g., a train vs. a taxi) might get a "thank you for being frugal" flag attached, providing a quick feel-good for those who are parsimoniously inclined. Other spend thrift types might get a flag that suggests an expense for a given line item is looking higher than it should.

Another nifty feature of the T&E app is integration with Google maps for expensing miles. You enter your start and end address and the tool calculates the actual mileage based on direct routing (or highway routing). If you took a different route, however, there's no need to worry. You can visually click on the map and change the route that then changes the total mileage. Once a user completes entering his mileage, he can then save the line item as a receipt for reimbursement based on the actually mapped route in the system.

The T&E tool also provides an overall expense view for users that can show summary items, individual receipts, etc. A daily grid feature enables users to spot whether or not they might have missed a receipt (e.g., for a taxi or lunch) based on their activities in a given trip or day. This grid visually alerts users to the fact that their expenses are looked at on both a per-day basis (and by line item) to reduce the potential for fraud.

After a user submits their expense report for approval, the system then calculates an audit score based on pre-defined metrics. For example, a red flag that could increase the number for a score might be multiple entries of the same dollar amount for a vendor or bill. In general, with T&E, as with the other components of the Coupa suite, the vendor has made some bold assumptions about what users and approvers should see at different stages of given workflows all with the eye to minimize the amount of content someone should immediately see, masking complexity but not getting rid of it for those that want to dig in via a click or mouse-over.

From a new functional perspective, Coupa has added a basic RFX toolset that now enables suppliers to log in an account and/or respond via email to a request (with quotes, further details via attachments and web links; email response is also allowed for general purchases as well along the approval chain). This RFP/RFI engine is not a replacement for a sourcing tool, but it's likely to be useful for a "get three bids" type of situation. On the contract management side, Coupa's capabilities now allow for a searchable repository where users can track purchases and invoice against the contracting through a series of steps and alerting notifications that ensure both efficiency and compliance adherence.

Stay tuned as we conclude this post updating the latest with Coupa, summarizing the vendor's commercial progress of late as well as our view on how their latest release stacks up to others in the market.

Screen Capture Notes

First Image -- This screen capture shows Coupa's expense report creation screen. It showcases the new "wallet" feature that makes it simple to add credit card transactions and electronic receipts to the report. It also displays a number of the flags built into the system to guide the user through the process which Coupa suggests can "encourage above board behavior".

Second Image -- This long screen view (email) provides a capture of Coupa's new email alerting capability. Coupa suggested to Spend Matters "that everything an approver would need to approve or reject a requisition is contained directly within the alert, with prominent buttons to draw the right action." From an email approvals standpoint, even though this screenshot does not show it, Coupa shared with Spend matters that the release "also includes a new feature to capture comments on the requisition through the approval workflow. For example, if I were to click Approve in the example, a new email would open with a unique key in the subject line that would approve the corresponding requisition when received into the system, and add any notes in the email body to the comment thread on the requisition." This suggestion was originally made by a Coupa customer.

Jason Busch

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