The clouds are gathering for Coupa

Summary:Sometimes I read something and it makes me smile from ear to ear, most often because it generates another of those ah-ha moments that keep tech people motivated. Reading Vinnie Mirchandani's SCARS: SaaS and Cloud Allowance Rebate System was one of those moments.

Sometimes I read something and it makes me smile from ear to ear, most often because it generates another of those ah-ha moments that keep tech people motivated. Reading Vinnie Mirchandani's SCARS: SaaS and Cloud Allowance Rebate System was one of those moments. Much as I am tempted to steal the whole post, this piece particularly caught my eye:

An example of bills which I expect will be circulating soon in legislative bodies around the world similar to the CARS initiative in the US...

...Sec 1403.  The purpose of this imitative is to help CIOs understand and calculate the benefits of leveraging cloud efficiencies such as

  • Google’s data center efficiencies
  • ecosystem of smaller, nimbler SIs (such as appirio)
  • NetSuite’s energy efficiencies
  • RightNow’s leverage of open source components
  • Zoho’s significantly lower SG&A
  • Appirio’s service-as-software mindset
  • Workday’s painless upgrades
  • Coda’s use of as PaaS
  • Amazon’s storage efficiencies

Those are just selected examples in each case. Most of these vendors are delivering multiple such efficiencies. So are many more like Yahoo, Rackspace, Nirvanix and countless others.

It arrived at exactly the right time. Earlier in the day I received a pitch from Coupa, a cloud based play that innovates at multiple levels. The pitch was a follow on from my piece about navigating among the large ERP vendor sites. Coupa's site is a refreshing change from the corporate stuff I am used to seeing.

Right up front I have customer videos I can view, entertaining cartoons that take the mystique out of procurement and information that directly addresses me as the customer. Innovation comes in many forms. But it doesn't matter a jot if the service is shallow or not up to snuff. So I scheduled a demo with co-founder Noah Eisner. By his own admission, he's not a sales guy, which is just as well, because I like to get into the guts of things when viewing a demo. Sales guys get in the way.

Coupa is in the e-procurement business but tries to make it as simple as possible for customers to onboard suppliers and staff. For those new to e-procurement, Coupa provides a walk through wizard which the company claims can get you up and running in less than two hours. I guess that will be true for a small business but once there are more than around 100 touching the system then you'll be in for some real implementation. A number of the customer videos I saw talk about implementing in less than a month with little technical help. That's still speedy.

Setting controls can be done on the fly, which allows you to change policy as circumstances demand. In 21st century fashion, Coupa takes the idea of crowdsourcing buying and pulls it into the service through iRequest and iBuy. These allow buyers to step outside central buying agreements when the situation demands but without breaking buying control. It's a neat idea.

Coupa makes a big deal of benchmarking, which is crunched nightly producing a report which signals where the customer is performing relative to the market as a whole. It's a bit of a blunt instrument because Coupa has yet to develop segmented market models. Even so, as a first stab, there are plenty of metrics to consider as a starting point for improving processes.

As a bonus, Coupa includes direct out-f-the-box integration to Quick Books and has integration links to SAP, Oracle and NetSuite.

I called up fellow Irregular and procurement expert Jason Busch. He sees it as a reasonable fit for SMEs  and noted that: "Even though Coupa's prices have risen a lot in the last few months, they're still well below anything you could get from an Ariba, Oracle or SAP."

Coupa recently offered to put government procurement online for free (for six months) but as Jason playfully says:

Is Coupa a GSA approved vendor? They weren't as of 8:35 CDT on Wednesday night when I last checked. To serve the Federal government -- or at least to take their money -- you've got to get on the list. So even if Coupa got a contract (or many) serving Federal agencies and departments for free, they'd still need to figure out how to get on the list to eventually start charging them.

Jason then goes on to explain how messed up US government procurement really is concluding that:

Calling attention to Federal procurement inefficiency from a requisitioning process is like complaining about a drippy faucet in a lavatory on the Titanic. Yes, it needs to be fixed (and maybe Coupa is the one to do it). But the real problem is that the ship is taking on water. And no plumber fixing a frigging faucet in a Walnut-lined stateroom is going to have a solution to that.

Oh well - nice try guys. Even so and with around 100 customers pumping in a minimum of $10,000 pa, I doubt they'll have too many problems finding takers in this economy.

Topics: Enterprise Software


Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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