At Coupa Inspire in London, 2 game-changing innovations barely got a mention 

Last week, Spend Matters Europe did a great job of summarizing the Coupa Inspire event in London based on observations and notes from those of us who were there earlier this month — including a look at the biggest items that Coupa was pushing on its product agenda:

  • payments — Coupa really wants to be the first vendor to take procure-to-pay to procure-and-pay
  • source together/community — as part of their now not-so-secret plan to eliminate the need for GPOs, at least for common indirect
  • supplier insights — eliminating the need for you to have to obtain diversity insights from third parties

This was great, but the best product-related announcements weren't in the keynotes, and they barely even got more than a mention in the breakout sessions.

So today, we're going to focus on two developments — connectivity and analytics encapsulation — because, while Coupa may not be as far along with them as it is with payments and community, these innovations can totally change the game in business spend management and should not be overlooked!

Connectivity

Right now, the connectivity into the Coupa platform that is available to its third party is primarily based on APIs and iFrames. And while that works great, you are usually punching out to the partner application, which works well most of the time, but in some cases it would be really great to have tighter integration. For example, if you are punching out to ProProcure to send out a lot of quote requests for a local service provider, for which you don't want to add that provider to your supplier master until you accept a quote, that is really the type of thing you'd like to do within an encapsulated space in the Coupa platform.

More specifically, you'd like to select ProProcure G-Quotes from the menu, enter the application, build your specific quote for local providers, send it out, monitor responses, select one, and push it straight to a PO (without first having to push the award into the Coupa platform, select it in Coupa, and then flip it to a PO). But within the next year, this type of integration should be possible as Coupa is building two new integration types into its platform:

  1. Panel
  2. Object

Both of these, if done properly, would result in more native integrations to the Coupa platform.

When you encapsulate something in an iFrame, you're just rendering an external application in the platform display area — the same way a web browser renders an external website. But if you can plug in a panel, the same way you'd plug in a panel to the System Preferences on  Mac OSX, then any capability contained in the panel can be run on the native Coupa system, access internal APIs and system calls, be part of a Coupa workflow and share data. This would allow for the type of integration you'd really like to have with third-party apps that should be part of a workflow, and not "punch-out apps".

And once Coupa has object integration, if you can define an object that conforms to a Coupa interface, it can be managed and queried by the native Coupa system and allow for data and workflow elements to be propagated across the system. I expect they will be able to do some really neat things with third-party data and capabilities, and that third parties will find new and innovative uses to extend the power of the Coupa platform, when it gets here and we're looking forward to see where Coupa is with this next year.

Analytics Encapsulation

This was the smallest of sidelines where the details only came to light out of a conversation at the event, and it was buried in the hundreds of new features and capabilities across source-to-contract, but it is one of  the most critical features, if not the most critical feature, in terms of future S2C platform capability. Why? Well, first let's define what this is.

The brilliant brains behind Coupa Sourcing Optimization (CSO) and Spend360 have encapsulated a lot of the core Spend360 functionality natively in the CSO platform.

Now, you're probably thinking, "So what? It's now rather tightly integrated and does everything I need it to do from a spend and performance viewpoint and the insights it is surfacing, especially through the community as a result of analyzing over $1 trillion in spend, are better than I get anywhere else, so why should I care where and how it resides in the Coupa platform?" and we hear you, but this is big. Really big.

With native encapsulation, Coupa will eventually be able to surface in-process analytics at any step of the source-to-contract workflow so you can do analytics on any set of data, at any time, to get immediate insights without having to create a new report, benchmark or scorecard to get the insights. When the responses to the RFI come in, before you build and run an optimization event, you will be able to do some basic comparative analytics and see that there's no way the supplier with the highest bid would ever get any award, even under standard constraints, if you are limiting to three suppliers — and just exclude that supplier from the event (allowing the scenario to solve exponentially faster). You will able to run outlier analysis across supplier bids to determine if a quote might be wrong (and the supplier should be requested to verify) because, when it comes to optimization, a single wrong number can invalidate an entire scenario. You will be able to open up an analysis in supplier insights to compare risk scores across dimensions across three suppliers. And so on. It will enable the next generation of analytics-powered insights on the Coupa platform.

"Supplier insights" are cool, "payments" increase efficiency, and "community" is a great buzzword, but the next generation of source-to-pay is going to require yet another leap in technology — and core platform — capability, and these are the foundations that might just allow Coupa to be a leader in the next generation of technology (and not just the current generation).

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