Coupa expands catalog to get more spend under management

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright February 1, 2018
Coupa expands catalog with Amazon deal and Simeno acquisition to help enterprise procurement teams get spend under management

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In any large organization, the procurement function faces a constant battle to stop people buying things outside of the proper channels. Spend management platforms such as Coupa therefore make much of their promise to help maximize 'spend under management' — either through simplifying the buying process or expanding the catalog of items it covers.

Over the past year, Coupa has been putting a lot of effort into the catalog part of this equation. Its Open Buy Program, which embeds third-party catalog items directly in Coupa's own catalog experience, debuted in June last year with Amazon Business as its launch partner. Then in December Coupa acquired Simeno Holdings AG, a leading specialist in B2B catalog management and search. Last week, I caught up with Donna Wilczek, Vice President, Product Strategy & Innovation at Coupa, to find out more about how this latest acquisition helps round out the vendor's catalog capabilities.

The traditional mechanism for listing items in a procurement platform is to either add them manually, or import them through some form of integration. Once they're in the system, it can then apply the organization's internal processes and policies such as spend limits and approval workflows. But imported data rapidly gets out of date, and often doesn't have all the information that's available in the third-party catalog.

Most procurement systems therefore allow the user to 'punch out' to selected third-party catalogs. The user can then search and find the items they need along with all the up-to-date information — but no longer under the spend controls of the organization's own procurement system.

Open Buy provides a higher level of integration that embeds all the current detail of the third-party catalog items within the Coupa experience, where the organization's settings can still govern the purchase. Bringing the wide ambit of the Amazon Business catalog into that environment made for a strong debut, but inevitably there are certain sets of products that even Amazon's catalog doesn't include.

Cross-catalog search

This is where Simeno comes in. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, the company has built relationships with many leading B2B suppliers and marketplaces. It is noted for its powerful cross-catalog search capabilities and multi-language support. By integrating this technology into the Open Buy platform, Coupa significantly expands its reach. Cross-catalog search is particularly useful since, rather than punching-out to each supplier catalog in turn, a single search query brings results back to the buyer from across the entire marketplace of suppliers.

The acquisition brings relationships and technology that has taken years to build, says Wilczek:

The work effort alone in building the relationships and then getting the technology to work on that supplier's site has been done. They've spent years and years doing that work. Simeno has resolved uniqueness at the supplier level across hundreds of these suppliers.

It's also helpful that the technology is a good fit for Coupa's own approach, she adds:

The technology itself is fast, it's clean — it's all a black box to that customer. We want to be the most open and user-centric platform. The way to do that is if our customers and end users do not have to even think about the technology — it just works and it's a seamless experience. The Simeno technology is of that mold.

SAP and Oracle customers

Although little known outside of the high-end enterprise procurement circles in which it moves, Simeno boasts a customer base that includes many very large users of SAP and Oracle procurement and supply chain management software, not only in Europe but also the US and elsewhere. The acquisition will help raise Coupa's profile in that enterprise market, says Wilczek.

One of things we're always acutely aware of is Coupa brand awareness. This gives us brand awareness in some of the largest organizations in the world running SAP and Oracle. The Simeno team are seen as a trusted advisor to these organizations.

The acquisition also bolsters Coupa's existing European presence. As well as its Basel headquarters, Simeno has offices in Germany and in the US. Says Wilczek:

Our growth in Europe is very rapid and this will expand our footprint in those cities. It extends our footprint and our relationships in these very large European headquartered companies.

My take

All the signs are that the Simeno acquisition is a highly astute move by Coupa. It adds some unique technology that brings a valuable new dimension to the Open Buying initiative, along with technical expertise and relationships with some very significant supplier networks.

More important than the marketplace element, however, is Simeno's standing with heavyweight customers of SAP as well as Oracle. This acquisition brings Coupa further into SAP's heartland, both in terms of customers and also geographically. It will be a surprise if significant new customer wins don't follow in its wake.

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Disclosure - Coupa, Oracle and SAP are all diginomica premier partners at the time of writing.