Coupa’s Suite: From Procurement To Accounts Payable (Part 3)

Click here to view a webinar we recently did with Coupa and Dell titled "3 Ways to Earn Loyalty and Profit from Your Suppliers: Lessons from Dell."

For invoicing or other areas of Coupa's modules during the configuration process, users can opt to apply rules to specific vendors or specific types of steps. For example, Coupa shared sample rules for invoices for MRO or office product vendors (based, perhaps, on SKU changes or substitution) as well as other example rules for check requests, large purchases and specific services type purchases and invoices. Obviously the sky is the limit with these types of configurations, but the combined simplicity, depth and ability for a truly non-technical user to create rules during an implementation process (or on the fly) is what makes Coupa stand out.

This includes, for example, developing highly detailed invoice approval workflows – with priority levels for certain selected fields – which might be based on any variety of factors including suppliers, SKU number (supplier), item number (ERP), tax calculation differences, added charges, commodity classification, shipping status, invoice type, whether or not it is PO- or contract-backed, etc. It's also possible to create conditional rules in the case of multiple factors being met simultaneously. Administrators can also search for existing rules in a free-text capacity or through a menu-driven system based on name, priority levels, types and so forth.

Some of the real power of an integrated suite approach like Coupa's comes into play once the system is deployed and modules start working together. An example might include the ability to compare quickly an invoice not only to a PO but also to contract terms, which could then set off certain workflows. Other integrated suites can claim similar look-up and integrated capabilities, yet what sets Coupa apart is the ease with which information is presented at the right time, with the right degree of information followed up by the appropriate steps.

A user might, for example, go to submit an invoice only to have it immediately flagged for a number of reasons (specific supplier flag, exceeds amounts, additional charges) but at the same time be presented with a graphical workflow showing the resulting manual approval process required as well as those who will be notified and can monitor the process. The ability to provide manual (self-service) editing capability within invoices was released after our review.

For overall visibility, administrators (procurement, AP or others) can quickly search and find invoices, navigating based on any number of fields and criteria or free text search. Searches might be by status (approved, disputed, holds, etc.) or other fields. For dashboards and reporting, Coupa's e-invoicing offering is differentiated not so much by actual report types (e.g., on-time payments, invoice status, opportunities for discount, workload, creation method like EDI, XML, CSN, internal) but rather the ability to navigate rapidly to different types of information and to see data in context.

Moreover, tying e-invoicing reporting into a broader dashboard context to provide a 360-degree view into supplier (or user, division, etc.) overall transactional activity is useful stuff. For example, a spend owner might navigate to a snapshot view of a large MRO supplier and see the total PO spend placed with the vendor, actual invoice amounts, savings (based on baseline numbers and past agreements tied to SKU pricing), contract expiration and specific invoice alerts – all in one place. Coupa's strength in this regard is not necessarily the cross-suite reporting, as others can do this as well. It's the ease with which all the information filters into one highly usable, walk-up environment based on turning on/off and using different modules.

Ultimately, as Coupa turns to building out its cloud platform capabilities in 2013, including social collaboration and related capabilities, the value proposition of the suite will become stronger, even if the individual pieces aren't initially up to true feature/function parity with competitors. Moreover, if Coupa can deliver on roadmap items like detailed supplier performance reviews based on social collaboration structures, strategic sourcing, communities of interest and real-time internal collaboration and knowledge sharing at the point of requisitioning, then things stand to get even more interesting.

In our final installment of this series, to be published on Spend Matters PRO next week, we'll share our current analysis of Coupa's new cloud suite elements and how the provider stacks up to competitors, as well as under which circumstances Coupa would be a better or less than ideal fit.

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