Coupa Inspire 2017: Pulling the String on Steve Wozniak

Pull the string and let him go. That’s pretty much all Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn had to do this morning. Following a fully scripted product marketing update (and its announcement of Release 18) delivered by Raja Hammoud, Coupa’s vice president of product management, Steve Wozniak sat down with Rob and off he went.

Wozniak’s anecdotes and opinions kept coming, but frankly, had little to do with any of the questions he was actually asked — even by his own admission. Let’s just say he left no tangent unexplored. But he was perfect. Perfect when considering that the subject matter was all about innovation and the setting was a user conference that’s about bringing a new vision of spend management to reality.

Coupa’s product roadmap is being driven by adding intelligence at the individual application, suite and community levels. They fit like a Russian doll. Take benchmarking supplier risk as an example. Coupa aggregates the supplier risk scores from its community of users, while still allowing each member the ability to create their own ratings. They can do so by editing the KPIs that Coupa provides as a default, or by creating their own and tailoring them with custom weighting schemes. The bottom line is, Coupa wants the knowledge to be shared.

Raja talked about taking what’s learned and playing it back to users in the form of specific recommended actions. No doubt Coupa plans on being a leader in the use of machine learning. But, back to the vision: the integration of application, suite and community allows the Coupa community of buyers and sellers to collectively identify and act on opportunities to improve. That’s the message.

According to Wozniak, “Motivation is more important than knowledge.” He also added that innovation doesn’t happen unless the inventors are having “fun” during the process, even going so far as to share his own math equation on the subject: “H = S - F” (Happiness = Smiles - Frowns), a message that Coupa management seems to have taken to heart. Several of Coupa’s product upgrades were announced with professionally produced video snippets designed, once again, to reinforce its vision while making the specifics fun and relatable.

If there’s a common, governing thread here, it has to do with Coupa and Wozniak’s outlook on innovation. Coupa is keeping it simple, which is precisely what distinguished Wozniak’s designs. But more important was this: “Great ideas are a dime a dozen,” said Wozniak. “It’s the people who actually act on those ideas and ‘do it,’ that matter.”

Coupa’s ability to get its user community fully invested in its vision of spend management will continue to buy it valuable time. Its marketing strategy in this regard is state of the art. Time will tell, but it’s clear that Coupa has confidence it has got the right idea. And between its partners and user community, it seems equally confident that it has the doers.

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