Raja Hammoud at Coupa Inspire — Suite Synergy and Collective Buying

The pre-lunch presentation at Coupa Inspire a couple of weeks back was by Raja Hammoud, Coupa Software’s VP Product Marketing and Management. Raja has been instrumental in taking the initial procurement product to a unified spend management suite, and focuses on product development alongside innovation in cloud technology. Not surprisingly then, her speech was about the product.

She took us through the company’s rapid expansion, the journey of a ‘collective community’ pushing the spend management industry forward, up to the latest developments today and how she sees the industry of the future. For part of her speech she honed in on Coupa’s perception that if technology can greatly enhance our personal lives, then the same must be true for our business lives. “We have been bringing our personal and our business lives together since 2006,” she said. “We wanted to inspire the business lives of our customers with measures that impact the bottom line everyday … but without a convoluted process … so we created an ‘elegant’ experience for them, what we call suite synergy.” (A great homonym – Coupa is very clever at name innovation, we think.)  In a very packed speech, a few particular areas caught our attention which we think will be of most interest to our readers, and this is one of them.

Suite synergy describes the way in which a customer can use Coupa’s group of products, from procurement through inventory management through expenses, in a unified way, because they have built the same capabilities across the suite. This works because nothing has been bolted on; every module is pre-integrated, so data sharing and visibility is made possible across the platform. This means that when you do something in one part of the suite, it will be remembered by the others!

For example, if you want to find out if an item it available, you no longer have to be in Inventory Management, it’s all embedded in the one system. So, it doesn’t matter to the user where the information comes from, what matters is that they can receive that information from anywhere in the system, seamlessly. And if you want to buy something, you don’t need to check if you have enough budget for example, you can see then and there the impact on your budget before you make the purchase. It’s what Coupa calls ‘enriching the customer experience.’ This has impact that goes beyond saving you time, for the sourcing manager it can mean the end of compiling monthly reports: the system tracks all transactional spend across the organisation and even goes as far as recommending to you what to source.

This leads us intuitively to another Coupa concept: Intelligent, Predictive, Touchless actions -- reducing clicks and removing paper by automatically populating data intelligently. So, let’s say you are in a restaurant.  You can dictate your expense by voice. The GPS location on your phone automatically populates the fields you need to fill in about the restaurant. An auto-classification engine cleverly maps, for example, breakfast, lunch etc, to the right category and the mileage is worked out according to your locations on your phone. The receipt from your pocket is scanned and the expense is automatically processed. The AP team barely has to ‘touch’ that expense claim, or an invoice for that matter, so they can focus on higher-value projects and higher transaction volumes without more headcount.

Raja also explained a bit about the latest developments in release 13, there are 65 of them, so we won’t go into them here, but they ranged from advanced eInvoicing control to extended enterprise mobility and wearable support, ie: approving a transaction from your wristwatch. The latest addition, supplier information management, is worthy of note. Customers had told Coupa about the nightmare of managing direct and indirect supplier information, involving processing thousands of requests. Adding a supplier in one system, managing in another, sending emails, making phone calls that don’t get answered because of the un-timeliness for the supplier; literally wasting time and not getting the information they needed.

So, enter Right Time Participation: Coupa considered all the stakeholders and came up with a solution that basically incentivises the supplier to want to give you that information. At the time of creating the invoice, information is pushed to the supplier in the same system. For example, a notification that their profile has expired, which needs to be renewed so that they can get paid – that gets their attention. The idea is that you put the focus in the same place where they do everything else. And their responses: name, email address etc are replicated at the same time across other apps in the system as they fill them out. So records everywhere are kept up to date for all activity.

She also looked at the future of spend management – visibility and control will be the ‘sixth sense’ that reduces the amount of time spent on procurement activities. Analysing spend data in actionable ways, anticipating needs and removing work steps, asking what you want to order and giving you the right supplies having tracked your previous activity, and giving relevant tips about what others have searched for and bought, are all part of the Coupa future. The premise being that all time saved adds up to millions of minutes over a year.

Finally, influencing future spend behaviour is key: ‘Source with Me’ is the Coupa concept that allows you to see Coupa-run crowd-sourced events that are relevant to you. Because your sourcing activity has been tracked, it can predict the sourcing that you are thinking about doing, allowing you to join a community in a sourcing event to get a better deal. Customers can access aggregate benchmarks across usage, behaviors and performance, and leverage their collective buying power through Coupa Advantage, which gives access to negotiated common spend categories that customers can buy from. So this is especially interesting for SMEs with smaller (or no) sourcing capability, where they can get experts managing the contracts and supplier enablement done for them.

And we will no doubt have more on a number of these points in the future ...

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