Author Archives: Andrew Karpie



Coupa: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses (2018 Update)

Coupa has become the provider “to beat” for procurement software suite customers who want a streamlined deployment effort, a simplified user experience and the ability to capture, manage and influence spend and services. Compared with peers, Coupa excels as a buying front-end for companies, intercepting users when they need to purchase something and processing spend of all types, including highly strategic spend that needs to be optimized. This is different from offering just an e-procurement application — a key point we explore in this Vendor Snapshot.

The procure-to-pay (P2P) process is still very much a part of the Coupa experience, if not the core (even though the vendor does offer standalone sourcing and spend analytics technology that handily beat the SolutionMap benchmark). When it comes to corporate purchasing, Coupa focuses on delivering an “Amazon-plus” experience for users. (Spend Matters stands by its earlier analysis in which we suggested that Coupa delivers a better corporate buying experience than Amazon as a buying front-end, at least compared with Amazon Business.) But as with other e-procurement software companies, Coupa brings a hidden back office component that provides procurement and finance organizations with significant compliance controls, oversight and related capabilities to manage and even guide buyers down specific paths (e.g., procuring a given item from a preferred supplier within budget), integrated community intelligence and even real-time risk analysis while making the overall buying experience almost as painless as shopping on a consumer site — even if the buying experience demands a multi-round negotiation with optimization-backed analysis.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores Coupa’s product strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide if they should shortlist the vendor. It also offers a critique (pros/cons) of the user interface. Part 1 of our analysis offered a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Coupa’s procurement software. The final installment of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

Coupa: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview (2018 Update)

There are many perspectives on Coupa. Some believe that the vendor has single-handedly transformed the world of spend management by building a truly unified suite that is 100% cloud-native, atoning for the over-customization, product and user interface sins of those that came before. Others think that Coupa has expanded too quickly and is doomed to repeat mistakes others have made in the past. But this Vendor Snapshot on Coupa is not about perspectives. It instead aims to review Coupa’s procurement software in depth, examining the vendor’s modules in the context of what they actually do today and how they are differentiated — or not — from others.

As we noted in our first end-to-end review of the Coupa platform, the majority of technology analysts no longer prioritize reviewing procurement software (e.g., product demonstrations, production sites) due to methodology or time constraints in evaluating vendors. This is where Spend Matters is the exception. Between attendances at Coupa Inspire, demos required for SolutionMap participation and customer interviews, the Spend Matters research team has collectively spent over a thousand hours analyzing Coupa’s products and talking to customers and prospective customers since we last did a Vendor Snapshot on Coupa. Since this time, we have also comparatively analyzed Coupa and its competitors for a range of constituents, including procurement and finance organizations, for suppliers participating in supplier network ecosystems, and for consultants and systems integrators. In short: we're confident that we've gone further and deeper than any other analyst firm in delving into Coupa's demonstrated product capabilities. Period.

This Q3 2018 Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot Update provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations, suppliers and partners make informed decisions on Coupa’s procure-to-pay (P2P) and broader source-to-contract capabilities, inclusive of inventory and travel and expense (T&E) management, offering an overview of the entire source-to-pay (S2P) process in one in-depth series. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Coupa for source-to-pay software. The rest of this multi-part research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analysis, user selection guides, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Beeline and New Mountain Capital: A Conversation With Doug Leeby (Part 2)

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Beeline’s recent acquisition by private equity firm New Mountain Capital has certainly been the biggest event in the contingent workforce and services sector this summer. To learn more about what the acquisition means for Beeline and the workforce management software market in general, we caught up with Doug Leeby, CEO at Beeline, to get both his insider scoop and expert perspective.

In Part 1 of this Q&A, we discussed New Mountain’s approach to managing its portfolio companies and how that could affect Beeline’s growth in the near term. Today, in the conclusion of this exclusive conversation, we examine the competitive dynamics between Beeline and its largest rival, SAP Fieldglass, and explore the three most important industry trends Leeby is focused on.

Beeline’s Acquisition by New Mountain Capital: Transaction Analysis and Competitive Impacts

Beeline, well known in the contingent workforce and services sector as one of the top two global VMS solution providers, recently announced it is being acquired by New Mountain Capital (NMC), a private equity firm. NMC, which is focused on developing and growing companies in defensive growth industries, is now completing the last formal steps in its acquisition of Beeline from private equity firm GTCR. Spend Matters covered the acquisition announcement and followed up on the news with a subsequent interview of Beeline CEO Doug Leeby, who expressed enthusiasm about the deal and confidence in the new owner.

The acquisition comes at an interesting point in the evolution of the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) software market.  On the one hand, solution buying by enterprises continues to follow a customary pattern — we need a VMS or an MSP/VMS and a supplier-funded model — resulting in a commodified, competitive market. In such an environment, some VMS providers have focused on achieving economies of scale, exploiting solution adjacencies (e.g., SOW) and investing in new technologies (e.g., data analytics, artificial intelligence) to enhance solution value and differentiate their offerings.

At the same time, changing conditions on both demand and supply sides of the labor market (e.g., skill shortages, cost of talent, independent workforce, online platforms) have started to stimulate responses among CW/S intermediaries and software providers. Moreover, the application of state-of-the-art and leading-edge technologies is enabling incumbent and new providers to offer new types of solutions that may (or may not) address emerging business needs in the short term or the long term. In such an environment, having the capacity to invest — and a balanced but agile investment strategy — would appear to be critical to future success.

In this Spend Matters PRO brief, we add context to and take a closer look at the Beeline-NMC deal, which seems promising. We also offer our perspective on what the deal may mean for Beeline and the competitive markets it serves, in both short and long terms.

New Upwork Enterprise Capabilities Support Adoption of Flexible Talent Programs

Upwork, the global online freelancer marketplace, announced Wednesday that it is adding capabilities to its Upwork Enterprise solution that will support businesses in their adoption of online freelancing and other alternative forms of flexible talent. The announcement of the Program Owner Experience capabilities came at Upwork’s second annual Work Without Limits Executive Summit, a gathering of Upwork Enterprise clients.  Upwork Enterprise is Upwork’s technology and managed services solution geared to support larger organizations. Program Owner Experience will provide Upwork Enterprise clients “with the resources and tools they need to drive flexible workforce adoption to build, scale and measure the impact of their flexible talent program,” according to a press release.   

The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List: August 2018

Welcome to the August edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature, “The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List,” available to Plus and PRO subscribers.

While the months of May and June were on the cool side, we saw a return to hot technology and innovation temperatures in July. Perhaps it’s extreme weather patterns? CW/S climate change?

Indeed, new hotspots could be found across the entire space, from the established core of traditional suppliers and intermediaries to new solutions that either complement or challenge the core (or both). While there has been friction and overheating on the demand side, developments on the supply side have also been heating up, with the mercury rising in places across the globe.

Now that our warmup is complete, let’s begin our first routine.

Innovative Employee Solutions Spins Off Fulcrum: A New Enterprise Solution for Independent Talent is Open for Business

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Innovative Employee Solutions (IES), a San Diego-based outsourced payroll and human resources services provider, recently announced it had spun off enterprise freelancer platform Fulcrum into its own company. Fulcrum, which was incubated within IES, bills itself as “a first-of-its-kind hiring platform connecting enterprise companies with top online gig and freelance talent providers while maintaining full compliance,” according to the recent press release. The newly minted company “delivers a powerful, end-to-end gig workforce hiring platform, where enterprise companies can access the entire gig economy from a single, fully-compliant online point of entry with transparent pricing models.”

Beeline and New Mountain Capital: A Conversation With Doug Leeby (Part 1)

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Beeline announced Thursday it had been acquired by New Mountain Capital, a private equity firm that seeks to “acquire the highest quality leaders in carefully selected ‘defensive growth’ industries, and then to build those businesses.” The acquisition, which Beeline and New Mountain describe as a partnership, represents a key development within the traditional contingent workforce management technology (i.e, VMS) solution segment. To get a clearer perspective, we sat down with CEO Doug Leeby for a wide-ranging conversation on what the deal means for Beeline, New Mountain’s approach managing its portfolio companies and how the acquisition could ripple through the broader contingent workforce and services (CW/S) technology sector.

Beeline Acquired by New Mountain Capital — The Journey Continues

Beeline, a provider of workforce management software, announced Thursday it has been acquired by New Mountain Capital, a New York City-based private equity firm, for an undisclosed amount, according to a press release. Founded in 1999, Beeline represents, alongside SAP Fieldglass, one of the “Big 2” vendor management system (VMS) providers. Its current incarnation is the result of a December 2016 merger with IQNavigator (IQN), which saw Beeline, part of staffing giant Adecco, acquired by GTCR, the owner of vendor-neutral IQN. Following the merger, Beeline and IQN were combined into a single company, renamed Beeline.

Delivering AI-Powered Solutions to Contingent Labor Challenges: A Q&A with ZeroChaos CEO Jim Burke

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The contingent labor market is both a large and increasingly critical component of businesses’ growth strategies. Yet the procurement software tools and services providers that enable organizations to find, engage and manage external workers have changed little over the past decade, creating an opening for pioneering companies to disrupt the space. This opportunity is front of mind for Jim Burke, who took up in June the role of CEO at ZeroChaos. To learn more about his outlook and where he plans to lead ZeroChaos, we sat down for a quick Q&A covering his first impressions of the sector, where he plans to uncover new value for clients and how artificial intelligence will be an essential capability for his company going forward.

Strategic Technology Planning: A New Imperative for Contingent Workforce and Services Procurement (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, we provided a context and rationale for the adoption of strategic technology planning for contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement. We also began the discussion of what strategic technology planning explicitly means for an organization and how it can be enacted. Part 2 of this series continues that discussion.

By way of summary, we defined “strategic technology planning” as a specific type of strategic planning that lets an organization (i.e., CW/S procurement) know where it is now, where it wants or needs to be some time in the future, how technology can be leveraged as an enabler and what changes in resource allocation and investment must occur or what constraints will condition progress. We should emphasize that strategic technology planning is not the same as a tactical plan or roadmap, though ideally it would lead to these.

Strategic planning is more about high-level understanding (insight and foresight) than it is about immediate, direct action. We believe it must become a critical component to any CW/S procurement function and program that wants to avoid being caught flat-footed and aims to deliver a new (and necessary) level of business value over a reasonable planning horizon (e.g., three to five years). This type of planning effort may represent a shift of gears for many procurement practitioners. For this and other reasons, we suggest and outline a process in this Spend Matters Plus research brief that is intended to help practitioners get started and pointed in the right direction.

Strategic Technology Planning: A New Imperative for Contingent Workforce and Services Procurement (Part 1)

For many years now, planning for CW/S technology has been largely tactical, focusing almost exclusively on the capabilities and effectiveness of one VMS solution or another. Technology planning at a strategic level has been rare in CW/S procurement functions, in main part because it has not been necessary in a relatively static technology and supply chain environment. Need a core contingent workforce technology to manage processes, compliance, risk and cost? Adopt a VMS (or work through your MSP to get one). Seeking a specialized category solution? Work with the business owner (e.g., legal, telecom, facilities) to engage a vendor that meets everyone’s needs.

But in recent years, many aspects of the environment in which CW/S procurement executes its mission have begun to change significantly. Under these conditions, strategic planning becomes necessary. Because technology is now and will be presenting CW/S procurement functions with new opportunities to add value to their organizations in a variety of ways, allocating time and resources to conducting strategic technology planning is now an imperative. In most cases, this will mean starting from scratch. But foregoing strategic technology planning opens CW/S procurement to missed opportunities, core mission failure and possibly disruption.

In short: procurement, HR and IT organizations — not to mention line of business owners — need to work together to create their own CW/S technology information architecture through a strategic technology planning process. In Part 1 of this series, we build the case for strategic technology planning and provide an overview of what strategic technology planning means for a CW/S procurement function. In Part 2, we flesh out a targeted approach to CW/S procurement strategic technology planning and practical approaches for implementation within an organization.