Coupa Inspire 2016: The Procurement Cloud Grows Up

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Coupa has been evangelizing the benefits of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-based procurement technology for going on a decade. I recently re-read some early email exchanges from 2007 with Dave Stephens and the original Coupa team, back when the provider’s claim to fame was that it delivered an open source version (i.e., free). In fact, I remember downloading an early version of the e-procurement tool at the time on my notebook.

The Coupa of today is still the same on many levels (except for the free part). It’s feisty, fast and loves to challenge the competition with a different philosophy — not just an alternative set of products. Although that philosophy has changed dramatically and now centers very much on “spend capture” as a means to drive better savings and procurement outcomes, the same passion from the early years is still evident.

Coupa Inspire 2016 is in many ways a truly public debut for Coupa outside the procurement-only stage. Coupa is tenting Union Square in San Francisco for the event, and I’ve heard talks of 2,000 people attending this year. There will be at least four folks from Spend Matters dropping by: Pierre Mitchell, our Chief Research Officer; Xavier Olivera, who leads our P2P coverage; Andrew Karpie, who leads our services procurement and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) coverage; and me. And our CTO, Scott Slone, may even join.

A Critical Year to be Inspired  

I speak for our team when I say this year’s Inspire is perhaps the most critical for Coupa as it enters a new phase of its growth. On the one hand, Coupa is no longer the underdog with both a mean growl and quick bite. The provider is in as many deals as Ariba/SAP these days and has built a global delivery and partner ecosystem for implementation and support. Yet on the other hand, maintaining the same level of growth in a SaaS business in which our own forecast shows a declining sector CAGR in North America by 2018 is not going to be easy.

Our guess is Coupa Inspire 2016 will be the year Coupa turns the corner with both its messaging and solution focus, moving beyond simply a strong P2P core with peripheral capabilities tied to it. It has to truly dive deeply on new areas if it wants to continue maintaining its high double-digit growth rates (and even triple at times) beyond 1H 2017, which requires investment now.

Building Out From the Core

In particular, we’re looking out for the following areas at Coupa Inspire to see the provider's focus and commitment to building out from the core. These areas may include:

  • Services procurement investment and expansion. (Note: Services comprise a surprisingly high percentage of spend going through Coupa today, although the ability to truly manage and control it in Coupa compared with what a vendor management system or specialized services procurement toolset for managing statement of work or category specific-spend varies materially.)
  • Broader support for finance organizations, including savings implementation and tracking, accounts payable automation, trade financing and working capital management, analytics and planning/forecasting.
  • Global regulatory compliance support and capability (e.g., e-invoicing).
  • Sourcing and supplier management product investment.
  • Contract lifecycle management, including the Contractually collaborative authoring capability.
  • Direct materials enablement and capabilities, from both a transactional buying and connectivity perspective as well as specialized support for analytics, supplier/stakeholder collaboration, sourcing, commodity management and other areas.
  • Leveraged buying and group purchasing organization (GPO) investment via Coupa Advantage, which has been (perhaps not surprisingly) a strong success and differentiator for Coupa.

Relevance and Sustainable Growth Beyond P2P Alone

As the number of ERP procurement and early Ariba (CD) replacement opportunities begin to peak in the coming quarters and years and as the middle market becomes less of a greenfield opportunity, Coupa will need to find new areas to help maintain its breakneck growth pace. We suspect Inspire 2016 may show the path or at least general direction of where Coupa plans to take its business past e-procurement and P2P alone.

After all, it’s no longer Coupa against the competition. The competition is now against Coupa. And being hunted puts you in a very different position than being the hunter.

Check back for live coverage on Spend Matters for Coupa Inspire 2016 throughout the week. We’ll be sharing what we learn in as close to real-time as possible, with deeper analysis, insights, facts, recommendations and key takeaways on Spend Matters PRO.   

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