Coupa Inspire 2019 brought a slew of news announcements. Coupa's plans to bring their procurement software mojo to bear on payments was a big theme.
Here's how I see Coupa's approach:
- Bring a consumer-grade experience to every app a procurement or finance pro touches - because in cloud software markets, intense user adoption is everything.
- There is no back office. External suppliers and stakeholder groups are also customers. Ergo, spend management is way more than a cost control exercise - it's just as strategic as any other customer-facing initiative.
- Take the value of so-called "true SaaS" to the next level, by aggregating customer data and bringing it back to users via prescriptive actions, peer benchmarking, and other forms of community intelligence (see my day one piece, Coupa Inspire 2019 - customers get real about spend management transformation).
That's why Raja Hammoud, SVP of Products, Coupa, didn't start her keynote by detailing Coupa's payment functionality. Instead, she said this:
B2b payments are in desperate need of consumerization.
But will Coupa's customers come along for the ride? How much of an edge does Coupa's spend management platform give them, when it comes to adoption of Coupa Pay and other new initiatives? Those questions were percolating when I sat down with Don Mitchell, Director of Corporate Finance and Shared Services at World Vision Canada.
Life after Coupa - "We got rid of 110 filing cabinets"
For Mitchell's team, the pressure to get procurement right is high. Based in Mississauga, Ontario, World Vision Canada is the largest private relief and development agency in Canada. World Vision Canada is an independent, Canadian based entity that's part of the World Vision partnership, governed by World Vision International.
The core of World Vision Canada's mission is serving children in need, and they are active in more than 100 countries. One compelling program is World Vision Water, which works to alleviate the global problem of insufficient clean drinking water. It's not about fostering dependence. As Mitchell told me:
Our goal is never to stay in the community. Our goal is to go in, empower and then leave. But then there's the aspect of fragile contacts which are all of these camps around the world where we have displaced populations living - so we serve there as long as those camps exist.
World Vision Canada also has a "sponsor a child" donation program, which connects a donor's money directly to support a child's well being. If you're a donor to that type of program, you want to know where your money is going. As Mitchell told me:
We have more than 500,000 donors in our database. What they want to know is: are we using their money wisely? Even in my own department since we put Coupa in, the two departments that I run, I've saved enough in salaries to pay for my annual maintenance cost... We've actually reduced our overall administrative throughout the building.
Snapshot - "We had a 30 percent procurement adoption rate"
Mitchell hates paper. That leads brings up one of the most interesting software benefits I've ever heard during an interview. Mitchell:
Since we've put Coupa in play - this is going to be hard to believe - we've gotten rid of 110 filing cabinets in our building.
Leaving with those filing cabinets is a lot of wasted admin time. But these results didn't happen overnight - nor were they easy to achieve. As the Director of Corporate Financial Services, Mitchell has a shared services purview that crosses many departments. When he joined World Vision Canada six years ago, procurement was a new duty. It wasn't long before reality sunk in:
I was quickly frustrated by what I was seeing. I had procurement and AP, which I'm learning is unique in some organizations, because typically they're reporting to two different people.
Mitchell saw firsthand how procurement processes get bogged down.
I was able to see the whole process, and all the frustrations.
Early attempts to fix invoicing didn't go so well:
We did go with another vendor initially for invoicing that failed miserably.
As for procurement adoption, well - not so great.
We needed to do something better around procurement. The organization wasn't using it. We had about a 30 percent adoption of our business units using procurement, and that just wasn't acceptable.
Have I mentioned that Mitchell hates paper?
It was a mass of paper - just paper everywhere.
Anything that interferes with the organizational mission eats at Mitchell:
We talk about the fact that for every dollar saved, it's five dollars of revenue I don't have to raise. I was on a track to say, "How do we save the organization more money?" And I was confident we could do that.
So, in 2015, Mitchell hired a new procurement manager. They put together a proposal for a "more robust procurement function." They also evaluated their current processes, looking at the amount of paperwork involved. One guiding question: "Why can't that be automated?" That certainly applied to the 800 procurement contracts per year.
After Coupa - "All of a sudden we had no visitors to accounts payable"
Kicking tires on procurement vendors led Mitchell's team to Coupa, which they found via one of Gartner's Magic Quadrants. The evaluation didn't take long:
I should say I'm what they call a quick start. I see something, I like it, I envision it, I'm way down the track. And so I very quickly said, "This is the right product for us."
World Vision Canada launched with Coupa Procurement in February 2017; other Coupa apps followed. But something had to be done about all the business units knocking on the door of AP, asking for their vendor's invoice status. Enter Coupa Invoice. Mitchell:
We put in Coupa very quickly, on the invoicing side, and immediately we had a 100% visibility to all of the business units. They could just go online, see the invoice, see the purchase order, see what their spend was against their contracts, see what their spend was against their purchase order.
No more complaints:
And all of a sudden, we had no visitors to accounts payable.
The wrap - kicking tires on Coupa Pay
Fast forward, and Mitchell has put in more Coupa apps. Coupa Travel and Expense is a case in point:
The other thing that sold us on the Travel and Expense was when we launched Coupa, we had zero complaints from the users within the organization. Everybody absolutely loved the product.
Yes, we're back to UX and user adoption. That turns into a platform edge:
So we went with Coupa Travel and Expense. We said, "Hey, we've got Coupa, why would we put in something like Concur if we're happy with a vendor like Coupa?" Again, everybody in the organization is absolutely in love with the platform.
So does that platform edge apply to Coupa Pay? When we got into the nuts and bolts of integration, Mitchell brought it up:
The bigger thing for us right now is that we do payments in ERP and everything else is in Coupa so you have all that information flowing back and forth. But if I implement Coupa Pay...
Does that make World Vision Canada an early candidate for Coupa Pay?
I was already an early candidate a month ago, so I waited until I got here to see.
After our interview, Mitchell was headed for a Coupa Pay session to dig in. But he already vetted some questions on the show floor. What does Mitchell think so far?
First of all, it will eliminate all checks. Right now we have all hand written checks.
He sees other potential benefits:
- flexibility of payment options and reporting
- greater spend visibility using virtual credit cards
- streamlined reconciliation process between virtual and actual credit cards
- easier payments to smaller suppliers
- early payment discounts as an asset if supplier negotiations, with immediate electronic payments
To me, the big story here is not the revenge of the applications suite. Coupa integrates well enough with ERP systems; customers aren't going to roll out more Coupa apps just for integration benefits. It's the trust in Coupa's user experience that is the real platform win. That's a good way to get yourself onto a customer's short list, for Coupa Pay or whatever's next.
Though it's not as pressing a need for him as payments, Mitchell sees potential in Coupa's AI-powered "Community Intelligence" as well. He's already using some of Coupa's peer benchmarking, and wants to do more with that. New previews like shared sourcing from Coupa customers could help also, given the intensity of the competition in the charity/non-profit space. Mitchell:
The best thing I can do is find better ways to save money. How do I do that? Better intelligence is going to help me to make better decisions around that. Where do I go? The shared sourcing sounds very intriguing to me, because if you got more people going out there sourcing, that's just going to impact that. So all of that information is going to help us to make better decisions.
That leaves open the question: why would Coupa move into a market like e-payments, which has roughed up many companies already? That's the topic of my next Coupa piece.