At Inspire, Coupa extends spend management footprint

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright May 12, 2016
A new release at its annual Inspire event sees Coupa confidently extending its spend management footprint along with the promise of more innovation to come

Raja Hammoud keynote Coupa Inspire 2016
Raja Hammoud at Coupa Inspire 2016

On day two of its Inspire conference in San Francisco, cloud-based spend management vendor Coupa announced Release 15 of its source-to-pay product suite, adding a range of additional features just four months after the previous release. Other announcements today include general availability of a contract collaboration tool and early access to a new digital invoice processing feature, both based on acquisitions made in the past year, along with enhancements to embedded analytics.

VP of product marketing and management Raja Hammoud delivered the day's opening keynote, highlighting user adoption as a key goal of the company's product development.

Users matter. They are critical to success.

Announcing a new landmark of 2 million suppliers engaged in its network, Hammoud cited the example of Service Corporation International, a Coupa customer that has not only used the platform to rationalize its supplier count from 300,000 down to 89,000, but has had 85,000 of them interact through the platform — an achievement that drew spontaneous applause from the audience of procurement professionals.

The contract collaboration capability made available today is the result of January's acquisition of Canadian startup Contractually. The tool allows procurement teams to collaboratively author and edit supplier contracts, as an alternative to the back-and-forth emails of conflicting Word versions that often characterize contract finalization.

The new digital invoice processing capability is based on last year's acquisition of Australian startup InvoiceSmash. It aims to eliminate rekeying of information by automatically reading the contents of PDF invoices emailed in by suppliers. The cloud-based technology has closed-loop learning capabilities that becomes smarter as it encounters new invoice formats. Coupa says that automating the accounts payable process in this way will speed invoice processing times, giving finance teams more time to take advantage of prompt payment discounts and dynamic discounting.

New release

The new Coupa Release 15 extends what Hammoud describes as the platform's "suite synergy," extending its real-time sourcing recommendations engine to examine expense management transactions and recommend potential savings based on predicted trends in expenses spend. Also new are a real-time supplier risk recommendations engine and inventory trend dashboards that highlight potential issues.

Coupa is particularly proud of a new feature offering what it calls hyperlocalized language support. This allows administrators to configure the built-in translations in the product to adapt them to specific country requirements in their own company. A new patent-pending twist on this feature allows users to forward suggestions to administrators for specific words and phrases in the screens they use. Hammoud revealed that the idea came out of a conversation with a customer at last year's conference after party, and commended the trio of Coupa developers who then went ahead and developed the feature:

They did not wait for someone to go tell them. They were compelled to take an action. They went and innovated it.

Several new features advance integration and API usage, from adding a native exchange rate service and a new API for automated spot buying, to improving the handling of invoices generated in third party systems. New API control features include more fine-grained access control and API key expiry times. An integrations management framework includes routable alerts to help manage integration runs across different ERPs, while a new certification program will bring more third-party software integrations.

Preview functionality

Hammoud also previewed new functionality being primed for future releases.

One is the development of benchmarks based on analysis of data aggregated from across the Coupa network, which CEO Rob Bernshteyn alluded to yesterday as an illustration of the company's value as a service philosophy. Hammoud showed how the functionality may look in the KPI dashboard, offering suggestions for specific actions that could help where a company is underperforming against the norm.

The second is called Services Maestro and is designed to improve control and automation of services procurement. Hammoud said that the development project had prioritized compliance and time sheeting. She showed an example of a Statement of Work (SOW) with an independent consultant that had been created in Coupa as an invoiceable document with embedded metadata containing information about the work to be done and compliance criteria. This information then automatically generates a timesheet that the consultant can complete for submission and approval. The approver can also add a rating which then appears against the consultant in the supplier catalog, which also shows availability.

My take

The above covers the product highlights from the Inspire conference but that's just one part of this week's event. There's more coverage to come, with fascinating insights from a CXO panel and from an appearance by Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson and his son Sam.

Overall, this was an assured event from a vendor that's learning to stand tall and bringing innovation to its target market.


Image credit - Courtesy of Coupa

Disclosure - At the time of writing, Coupa is a diginomica partner and paid the author's travel costs to attend its conference in San Francisco this week.

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