Coupa – A Customer Perspective of the Latest Offering

Anthony Ryan, head of Procurement Operations at eir, attended the Coupa Inspire event in London last week. He was impressed by some aspects of the product modules and left wanting more from others. As we could not be there for the whole day, we were pleased to get his unfiltered take on what he saw, with a particular focus on areas for further product improvement (but please note, this does not necessarily represent the views of Spend Matters).

The most impressive part of the Coupa suite by far is Expense Management. Coupa is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition when it comes to ease of use. In its current form, it is so user-friendly and simple to use. The evolution of the smarter trip is very impressive. The new Samantha voice assistant makes Siri look like an underachiever and will make expense reporting (dare I say it), fun to do.

I also believe that Coupa is certainly hitting the nail on the head with the promise of benchmarking across clients by industry and the option of being able to tailor comparisons based on total spend in an attempt to move towards apples-to-apples comparisons. Insights and opportunities for improvement that this kind of reporting should reveal is worth as much as any consultancy charge.

Sourcing and Commodity Management

Improvements in identifying Sourcing Opportunities are a move in the right direct but this is an area begging for machine learning and artificial intelligence. To stay current, Coupa should be looking at embedding intelligence to make recommendations to the buyer based on the commodity, spend, geography, etc. Ideally, the system should give the user advice - for instance, suggesting that the opportunity just identified, (or the event you are configuring), is best serviced by three rounds of bidding, contained to a one-week time frame. Or is the commodity you are reviewing best serviced by a reverse auction? Coupa's recommendation engine future functionality displayed appears to do just that, so it will be interesting to watch this evolve.

Today Coupa allows buyers to add their weights and scores, but not for complex scenarios. I have been informed that their upcoming January, 2017 release will have the ability to weight and score at a granular level for individual items, attachments and questions. At the moment, the data has to be exported to spread sheets for analysis, and user experience for the supplier is still not great if you have to edit an event to add or change any information after it starts. Re-issuing new URLS is clunky and prone to problems. As a user of Coupa every day, this stuff matters, although it is still far better Coupa have a sourcing product than not.

In short: sourcing could do with some additional TLC from Coupa’s development team to take it to the next level.

Contract Management 

Contract Management is an area where Coupa is just getting started. The latest version of Contract Authoring and approvals could use improvement compared with stand-alone CLM tools. Missing functionality includes no automated status updates on the contract record for lifecycle events: In Authoring, Out for Supplier Signature, Fully Signed, In Effect, Expired, Terminated, Amended.

The new in cloud authoring function does have a nice colour highlighting feature to make it quick and easy to identify struck out language and newly inserted language but is missing a connection to the underlying contract record. The authoring tool inherits default values from the fields on the contract record but does not write updates back. For example, if your template has a default of 60-day payment terms and it is redlined to 45 or 30, you have to manually update the field instead of that coming directly from the redlining like some of the competitive products out there.

The Coupa version of a playbook is associating templates with fields to swap out language. There is no guidance with the alternative terms and no way to associate specific alternative terms to a prescriptive approval process. Approvals in Coupa are constrained at the platform level due to a lack of formula field data type or support for formulaic conditions. You can’t write conditions such as - if the payment term on the contract is greater than plus or minus 15 of the default value on the supplier record, then “this”, or else “that".

These things combined put Coupa CLM behind standalone CLM tools available in the market. However, this is to be expected given their focus on building an integrated spend management suite over individual point solution features.

Building On a Strong P2P Competency 

In summary, Coupa’s core competencies of expense management, PR to PO to Invoice (P2P) flows are excellent. All the peripheral modules that go with these modules are in different stages of evolution and moving in the right direction. If you need specific capabilities today around CLM or SRM, you will need to assess point solutions integrated to Coupa in the near team. If time is on your side, what Coupa has developed holds a lot of promise of great things to come  - historically the have executed very quickly against their plan.

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