Coupa’s Suite: From Procurement To Accounts Payable (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1.

Before delving into Coupa's approach to invoice management software, it's worth doing a quick double-click on where procure to pay software priorities stand in their overall roadmap. While a major priority for development at the end of 2012, Coupa's electronic invoicing capabilities continue to get significant product investment in 2013, even though the product is closing in on competitive parity with specialists. In addition to key enhancements in e-invoicing, 2013 priorities for Coupa's cloud platform include a range of new product offerings including social/community-oriented capabilities that are rumored to be announced at their upcoming Inspire conference.

Current general developments in Coupa's Release 9 (available April 2013) include expanded mobile capabilities, enhanced catalog uploads, multi-supplier order lists, order scheduling, a new survey/questionnaire capability, presentation/interface tweaks (e.g., collapsible windows/screens for recent activity) and additional dashboards as well as a broad range of modular enhancements to invoicing (which we'll get to in a minute) and T&E. New T&E support includes, for example, new capabilities for managing per-diem set amounts, greater search capability within a wallet and APIs enabling third-party integration into travel suppliers.

2012 enhancements to Coupa's invoicing capability include an invoice creation API, the ability for suppliers to send off-contract or non-PO invoices through the Coupa supplier network, multiple remit to locations, new approvals/remediation processes that can span the approval chain, greater tolerance flexibility and configurability, VAT support, and other capabilities designed around AP-based configuration, management, reporting and approvals.

At the time of our demonstration, Coupa noted that Release 9 will offer email-based supplier queues, new invoice-based dashboards and KPIs for reporting, split screens for data entry and related capabilities that would make it even more competitive with pure-play invoice automation incumbents. It's clear from looking at the pace of these developments that Coupa is prioritizing e-invoicing in its product pipeline.

As much as procurement roots don't want to admit it, e-invoicing and AP automation is not simple stuff. There's an argument to make – and it will likely resonate for those with experience in deploying or owning eProcurement tools for their company, which are expanding into AP – that the effective deployment of a full invoice automation program requires a level of workflow, configuration and definition management that makes requisition systems alone (not counting catalog management, supplier management, etc.) easy.

For supplier enablement and e-invoicing, Coupa has built a solution that enables vendor connectivity through a variety of means, including electronic standards such as cXML, CSN and EDI as well as through scan/capture partners including Kofax and ScanOne. At the heart of invoice automation capability is the ability to define tolerances and thresholds for invoices, which can be different across divisions, categories and other firm-wide structures and demographics. With the Coupa system, users can define tolerances for automated processing fields (i.e., those that do not have to go through a manual exception handling process based on value) such as cannot exceed amounts, quantities, etc.

The configuration capability for approval workflows is integrally linked with other Coupa modules, including requisition capability and expense reporting. In the configuration process, for example, users have a choice of following the same approach for each area or creating configurations by module and capability. For example, a team lead may opt to select a common approach for approvals based on management hierarchies or specific approval chains for requisitions and e-Invoicing, but they might opt to allow self approvals only for certain requisitions under a given value amount while utilizing the ability to add "watchers" for certain actions (e.g., invoices that go beyond a certain tolerance such as price or invoice frequency from the same vendor).

Stay tuned as our analysis continues.

Click here for Part 3.

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