Coupa Inspire: Suite Synergy, Wearables, T&E and More

On the second day of Coupa Inspire, Raja Hammoud, vice president of product management, kicked off the festivities by framing the context of how consumer and business technology have started down a merger path that will make them inseparable. She also introduced the concept of “Suite Synergy” – a clever marketing tagline – to describe how modules interoperate both from a functional and user experience perspective.

It’s nothing unique for providers offering a single suite such as Coupa, but the way Raja explained it was simple and effective – others should go to school (including procurement organizations trying to explain the benefits of suites to the rest of the organization) on the words Raja picked to describe it (a video of her talk from this morning no doubt be available at some point).

Apple Watch and More

In her talk, Raja also explored the direction Coupa is taking beyond just modular integration and interactivity. A major component of this is incorporating a mobile-first philosophy in numerous areas. While gimmicky at this point given the slow response time for Siri and the time to launch apps – and I say this as someone in love with his Apple Watch and who is using a dozen apps already on it – Raja introduced the concept of “wearables support” for the Apple Watch, which will allow users to “approve or reject expense reports, invoices and requisitions” on their wrist.

Very cool. But even “pre” early adopter at this stage.

Other areas Raja touched on include leveraging GPS location capabilities on mobile devices to help default expense categories and locations; another example she shared in changing the user experience is being able to dictate expenses by voice. In Coupa’s announcement of these new capabilities that are part of the “SmarterTrip” elements of Coupa’s T&E solution, the firm notes that the idea is to “deliver a virtual personal assistant for business traveler [which can] automatically record a business traveler’s route taken, geolocation, mileage and time spent at a location to predict items that should be expensed.”

T&E Ain’t Easy

Great stuff, no doubt. And Coupa shared a hilarious video highlighting what it’s up to more broadly with rethinking T&E (e.g., having the Coupa app ask in an alert if a recent trip was for work and with a swipe, can book the miles).

But, if only it were that easy. Coupa still lacks native travel booking and management capability – a complete bear to build given the GDS and other integrations required and essential for closed-loop T&E inclusive of travel in Spend Matters’ view. It is also going up against a 10-ton gorilla in the form of Concur, which lacks some of the weak spots of Ariba, at least at the present time. And let’s not forget Deem, Expensify and others in the market.

So for now, T&E remains a clever extension to Coupa’s core with great marketing and clever bells and whistles and is likely to serve as a useful extension to P2P for some customers. But it will be a more challenging stand-alone sale in a highly competitive T&E market compared to P2P.

Stay tuned as our coverage continues from Coupa Inspire throughout the day.

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