Key Analyst Takeaways from Coupa Inspire 2019
Last month, Levvel Research attended Coupa Inspire, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from Monday, June 24, 2019–Thursday, June 27, 2019. The following post provides an overview of the event and a Levvel Research analyst’s industry insights.
Coupa Inspire offered what any good conference should—a proper balance of flash, entertainment, and substance. From the location (the massive and all encompassing Cosmopolitan Hotel), to not one but three stellar keynote speakers (Malcolm Gladwell, Suze Orman, and Deepak Chopra), to the throwback lineup of 90s musical cult heroes at the closing party (including Vanilla Ice), Coupa was out to make a big impression. When it came to their technology, however, Coupa wasn’t out for gimmicks or bedazzle; they wanted the value of their business spend management (BSM) platform to speak for itself by drawing attention not only to the superior functions of the tools, but also to potential outcomes.
Coupa Pay is Here to Stay
Among the announcements from the event, the enhancements to Coupa Pay were some of the most notable. These included strategic partnerships with TransferMate, which will improve Coupa’s international supplier payments capability, and PayPal, which enables more payment flexibility to clients (i.e. allowing them to work with a variety of suppliers, including small businesses). Coupa has also partnered with the online payments provider, Stripe, and with Citibank to expand their partnership portfolio of virtual card issuers within the Coupa suite. Beyond partnerships, Coupa has architectured Coupa Pay to enable a more centralized and complete payment management interface, allowing AP teams to choose from a variety of methods without having to switch systems or segregate their data. Coupa sees Coupa Pay as a game changing module that further cements the organization as more than just a procurement automation provider, but a complete Procure-to-Pay (P2P) platform. The feature certainly sets them apart from providers that are better categorized as “Ready-to-Pay”, or those that only create ready-to-pay files as opposed to featuring actual payment platforms.
Coupa also announced their new unified contingent workforce management capability, a result of their DCR Workforce acquisition just 8 months ago, as well as a broadening of its Open Buy offerings by including AWS among its suppliers. Coupa unveiled the new Coupa App Directory, which enables customers to embed third-party applications across the Coupa BSM platform. Launch partners include BitSight, EcoVadis, GetThere (a Sabre company), Taxback International, and Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE. Overall, Levvel Research believes these additional partnerships increase the versatility and business value of the platform, especially for organizations looking to automate their back office from a holistic standpoint. Contingent workforce management tools and these other enhancements grant procurement teams more access that effectively makes their function more strategic and impactful for the business.
The Power of Community Intelligence
A big theme of the conference was the value of “community intelligence” for the BSM process. Coupa stressed the importance of aggregated transactional data for business success, and unveiled a few new analytics tools that demonstrate that value of evaluating transactional data and spend activity to reveal savings, reduce supplier risk, and minimize fraud. One example is the Procurable Spend Spotlight, which uncovers savings opportunities by identifying purchases that were made outside of procurement contracts.
While advanced data analytics and automatic savings identification are impressive features, the most exciting example of how Coupa is leveraging this idea of community is in Source Together. This capability allows organizations to collaborate on sourcing events in order to gain more competitive pricing. This potentially allows smaller companies to share the rates that enterprises—due to either higher order volume or more negotiating power—are able to achieve. This newly launched tool has only been used by a small pool of customers so far, but reviews are positive. Levvel Research hasn’t seen a capability quite like this in other procurement platforms thus far, and we view it as a fantastic example of modern day crowd-sourcing in an area one does not expect.
To Buzzword or Not to Buzzword?
A few notable characteristics of Coupa that set it apart from the rest of the space at the moment: As numerous mergers and acquisitions have roiled, consolidated, and restructured the current P2P market, Coupa has been relatively reticent to participate (with some exceptions like DCR Workforce). In addition, where some other providers have wholly embraced the idea of an open network platform and “app ecosystem”, Coupa’s new App Directory is open to a limited number (fewer than 10) of partner applications at the moment. Even Coupa’s messaging is somewhat alternative, as they avoid using many of the buzzwords that are being thrown around by the tech industry as a whole (it was well into the second day before I heard the term “digital transformation”). While Coupa is using the same innovative technologies that their peers are using, such as AI and advanced data analytics, they are not leading with it in their marketing.
I discussed some of the above strategy and messaging differences with Ariane Lindblom, the VP of Product and Segment Marketing at Coupa. She reiterated that Coupa has always held to a firm “build vs. buy” principle in their business strategy. The limited number of acquisitions and partnerships they have made, along with offering more advanced capabilities to power users, have been to enhance the value and versatility of their core solutions. Lindblom said Coupa has chosen to invest in capabilities they see addressing real market needs and delivering real value to their customers. It also seems as if Coupa has been careful not to rush forward to keep up with competitors at the risk of hurting the quality of their overall product. For example, while the new App Directory is in line with where many other notable procurement providers are going, Coupa is approaching their Directory carefully so as not to lose the integrity of their infrastructure, user experience, and spend data management control.
In addition, Coupa purposely avoids using too many technology buzzwords to get their point across—because the tool itself is not the only point. Coupa is trying to center the conversation on “outcomes”, says Lindblom. They want to position themselves as not just a platform, but more a “value-as-a-service,” which enables organizations to use funds on hand to drive innovation and profitability.
Coupa is a relatively young company that has covered a lot of ground since it first entered the procurement tech market, destabilizing the position of some of the older software providers. A few of Coupa’s leading value propositions have been its focus on user experience, strong foundational technology, and its completely SaaS-based architecture (Coupa has never offered on-premise solutions). Coupa is also consistently committed to strong, intentional solution enhancements and customer-focused business strategy. Although Coupa continues to shape and drive change in the current P2P space with their innovation, Levvel Research was happy to see that this commitment to their customers’ business success has not changed.