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October 9th, 2014 | ComputerWeekly.com | TechTarget

Application integration demands a light touch in the cloud

The appeal of cloud applications is irrepressible. Low capital costs, flexibility and “free” upgrades – anyone who has experienced behemoth on-premise application upgrades can be easily swayed by the appeal. 

 

Last year, IDC forecast that from 2013 to 2017 spending on public IT cloud services would enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 24% – five times that of the IT industry as a whole.

 

But in-house applications will not go away. Investment in reliable enterprise applications can be too great to disregard, so the two models will have to live side by side for the foreseeable future.

 

For example, in 2009 the Islamic Bank of Britain began moving its customer relationship management (CRM) systems to the cloud, but kept its core banking system on an AS/400 IBM mainframe running a Misys financial application

 

In doing so, it was able to create more efficient onboarding of customers to launch products, but not before investing in a sophisticated middleware layer (see case study below).

 

Running cloud and on-premise applications in tandem

In fact, the majority of companies using cloud business applications do not closely integrate them with on-premise systems. A study from Ventana research found 56% of organisations do the integration through spreadsheets or by exporting data, with custom coding being second most popular at 39%.

 

“This is the reality of business today,” said Ventana CEO Mark Smith. “Many departments and individuals, using different applications, are needed to support orders, fulfilment and service. If these applications are not connected, organisations have to perform manual intervention, re-enter data, or copy and paste, which not only wastes time and resources, but can introduce errors.”

 

To get around this, users are better off with a “light touch” approach to integration, allowing the cloud application to operate on a standalone basis as much as possible, only connecting with in-house systems when necessary, said Alastair Bennett, a solution architect at Coupa.

 

Coupa offers procurement, invoice management and spend management applications, built from the ground up, to be hosted in the cloud. Bennett said the approach is very different to in-house enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and customers need to understand those differences.

 

“We train them and get them to understand that they are looking at cloud applications and not looking at ERP any more. Most customers, if they have SAP running through their veins, cannot see beyond that,” said Bennett.

The process will require data modelling and mapping of business processes. “We look at business process and how users' and suppliers' data models interact with ERP data. We build up a model of how everything inter-relates,” he said.

 

Keeping software integration simple

Coupa, like a lot of cloud applications, is built to be very configurable by users with a flat data structure, and therefore does not need the bespoke customisation that some in-house systems require, said Bennett. 

 

Our successful customers have light-touch integration with back-end ERP

Alastair Bennett, Coupa

 

“Configuring the solution takes a matter of hours, but sorting out the structure of the data and getting that into the solution can take time. Quite often customers need to build something in their ERP to create the correct data structures that we consume,” he said.

 

“We find our successful customers have light-touch integration with back-end ERP, whereas in the past everything had to be tightly integrated.”

 

Bennett said an ERP system will commonly handle purchase orders, goods receipts and invoices. Instead of integrating all data across both systems, he recommends Coupa matches the three internally and simply sends an instruction to pay suppliers, with information about the associated cost centre, to the ERP.

 

“Because we’ve defined an interface agreement on these very few fields, we can make it slick and efficient. We’re not pushing information into and out of ERP all the time,” he says. 

 

Using cloud to modernise legacy IT

In fact, rather than presenting another problem to businesses wanting to integrate legacy applications, cloud technology could help bear the burden, said Nigel Barnes, lead technology architect globally at Accenture.

 

We are right at the beginning of a journey to software as service

Nigel Barnes, Accenture

 

“We are seeing a lot of legacy out there that people want to keep and renew or re-platform, recasting them in modern technology,” he said.

 

In the case of older generation languages such as Cobol, the application may be moved to run on emulation software in-house, as part of that renewal, said Barnes. Alternatively, there is a growing trend to emulate the application environment in the cloud, where service providers can gather a pool of hard-to-find legacy skills.

 

“We’re seeing a lot interest in that space. It is about making sure you have the skills at reasonable price. We are right at the beginning of a journey to software as service. People will be asking how they can modernise applications and you will see niche players interested in the market,” he said.

 

Users are struggling with integrating cloud applications to their enterprise application portfolio, often falling back on ad hoc, inefficient techniques. They can use integration layers or adopt a light-touch integration with their on-premise systems. 

Either way, they will still have to understand their data structures and business processes to benefit from the latest generation of cloud technology.

 

Case study: Islamic Bank of Britain reaches across the cloud 

An ageing customer relationship management (CRM) system from Siebel was proving costly to maintain and upgrade for the Islamic Bank of Britain, the UK’s first wholly Sharia-compliant retail bank.

 

Chief operating officer Mohamed Gamil said the bank contacted Salesforce.com in 2009, and the decision was made to move its CRM to the cloud. But the question remained about how to connect it to an AS/400 mainframe which runs the core banking system from Misys and had once also hosted the Siebel system.

 

Salesforce.com sends only the relevant information to the core banking system and holds the rest in the cloud

Mohamed Gamil, Islamic Bank of Britain

 

The answer was to build an integration layer based on Microsoft Biztalk server, which is set for an upgrade. Initially, this supported one-way replication when account information was changed, and that was replicated to the CRM system. “But that meant data redundancy, as we held customer information in two places,” said Gamil.

 

In the second phase of the project, completed in 2011, the bank began to eliminate this redundancy and manage customer acquisition in Salesforce.com, sending only the relevant information to the core banking system and holding the rest in the cloud.

 

This made the account-opening process faster, helping the bank to launch products more rapidly. As a result of using the system, the bank quickly reached a £20m deposit target for a 120-day notice account, said Gamil.

 

Salesforce.com has since been extended to manage products equivalent to mortgages, allowing solicitors to input conveyancing data on the cloud system and greatly reducing the management burden of the process, he said. 

 

The bank has also benefited from a range of plug and play add-ons in the Salesforce.com platform, such as SMS services, without having to link directly to its core banking system, said Gamil.

 

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October 1st, 2014 | Rob Bernshteyn | Forbes

Sales Negotiations Should Be A Tango, Not A Breakdance

It’s the end of the quarter, and I’m in my office, tied to my phone and email, waiting for the last few outstanding deals to come in, same as at the end of every quarter. This is business as usual in virtually every company in my industry, enterprise software, and in countless other industries as well: many of the deals close at the last minute of the quarter or end of the year.

 

We all know the drill. Customers think they’re going to get the best price and terms by waiting until the last minute when they have the vendor’s back to the wall.

 

There are good reasons for that, mainly that it very often works. As a vendor I’d be lying if I didn’t say that

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September 8th, 2014 | Ilene MacDonald | FierceHealthFinance

Molina Healthcare's new centralized procurement operation saves time, money

Accounts payable (AP) and the cloud may hold the secret to providing quality healthcare.

 

At least that's what Molina Healthcare--an organization that provides healthcare to financially vulnerable families and individuals covered by government programs--discovered when it created an in-house centralized procurement operation, a move that kept administrative costs down while it expanded staff and membership.

 

Rapid growth was the main reason the Long Beach, California-based organization, which offers health plans in nine states and has medical clinics in California, Florida, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington and Utah, decided to centralize the process, Bryce Berg, vice president of corporate administration (pictured right), told FierceHealthFinance in an exclusive interview.

 

When Berg came to Molina in 2010, the organization was experiencing

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September 4th, 2014 | Proquest LLC | Insurance News Net

Molina Healthcare's Bryce Berg Gets Coupa Innovation Leaders Award

Coupa Software reported that Bryce Berg, Molina Healthcare's Vice President of Corporate Administration, has won Coupa's Innovation Leaders Award in Healthcare.

 

The company said that the award recognizes Berg's successful transformation of Molina's procurement sourcing and invoicing processes, an initiative that has facilitated Molina's growth.

 

According to a release from the company, the Coupa Innovation Leaders Award recognizes

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September 2nd, 2014 | Stuart Lauchlan | Diginomica

Coupa’s Irish eyes are smiling as global customer support moves to Europe

California-based spend management firm Coupa is shifting its global customer support operation to Dublin, Ireland as it looks to be perceived as an international player

 

One thing the Irish government has done well is prove to be an attractive destination for US tech companies – and increasingly cloud companies in particular – to set up their European headquarters. Last week, for example, Derek highlighted Birst as being the latest to join the likes of Google and Amazon in the Emerald Isle.

 

But none of those firms has done what spend management firm Coupa has just done which is to route its entire global customer support operation through Dublin.

 

In addition, Kieran Brady of Coupa Dublin has been

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June 25th, 2014 | Jason Busch | Spend Matters

Coupa Inventory: Expanding the P2P Value Proposition and Surrounding Core Financials

 

Earlier this spring, Coupa provided a briefing and demonstrated a version of its latest inventory module to Spend Matters. Coupa sells its inventory module as an add-on to core procurement but separately from accounts payable, contracts management, and other suite components. But the question remains: in its initial release, does it provide enough value to justify the added cost and modular expansion for companies using other Coupa suite components?

 

After seeing it, Chief Research Officer Pierre Mitchell and Managing Director Jason Busch argue in this Spend Matters PRO research brief that Coupa’s new inventory management capabilities are likely to bring the company closer to marginalizing the

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May 27th, 2014 | Paul Demery | InternetRetailer.com

An online procurement system slashes costs for a health care company

 

With a new online procurement system for stocking its 55 health care facilities with supplies ranging from medical equipment to cleaning supplies, Avalon Health Care is saving money while also slashing the time it takes to receive supplies.

 

With 330 people buying supplies across its 55 health care facilities in several 

 

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May 27th, 2014 | Gurjit Degun | SupplyManagement.com

Coupa, Basware and Ariba 'lead the e-procurement pack'

 

E-procurement providers Coupa, Basware and Ariba have been recognised as leaders in the field by Forrester Research.

 

The Forrester Wave e-procurement Q2 2014 noted that Coupa is “the most customer-centric organisation with the most flexible product”.

 

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April 22nd, 2014 | TMCnet

Coupa Software Rolls Out New Inventory Application and Release 11

Coupa Software, a provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance, announced a new additional application to its product suite: Coupa Inventory.

According to a release, the company also announced a new release of its SaaS solution, Coupa 11. With the expansion of its solutions portfolio, Coupa offers customers the most comprehensive suite of organic, cloud-based financial applications in the

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April 18th, 2014 | James Haight | Blue Hill Research

Procure-to-Pay Analytics: Some Caution for Embedded BI

In reading Scott’s blog I couldn’t help but reflect on how we need to be careful not to drink too much of the Kool-Aid (hype) surrounding dedicated BI solutions. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the evangelical charge towards a dedicated organization wide BI platform, especially in light of all the exciting advances the technology has made recently. But as with just about anything

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