Why IT Enterprise Architects Should Embrace Business Spend Management in Uncertain Times

John Callan
John Callan
Sr. Director, EMEA Product & Segment Marketing, Coupa

John Callan is responsible for product marketing and go-to-market strategies for the Coupa Spend Management platform. John earned his Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Minnesota and a dual degree in Engineering and Mathematics from University of Dublin, Trinity College.

Read time: 9 mins
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Coupa’s BSM Platform is proven resilient and rock-solid – it will reduce the complexity of your IT environment, ease the burden of integration and maintenance, and deliver significant value to the business and your IT team.

In today’s crisis environment, you have to prioritize many IT resilience projects, including what technologies you can solidly rely on during these times (see last week's blog post on IT Continuity During a Pandemic). We’d like to assure you that if you are evaluating Coupa, we’ve got your back.

So – You’ve Been Tasked with Evaluating Coupa’s BSM Platform... 
Will it fit into your overall IT landscape? How hard will it be to integrate with your existing systems? How long will it take to deploy? Will it do what Coupa says it will do? You’re likely using SAP or Oracle ERP, and how’s Coupa going to work with them? Why not just go with add-on modules from your ERP vendor?

Coupa’s Resilient Cloud Technology Platform is Rock Solid, Secure and Compliant
Coupa saw the potential of the cloud and big data over a decade ago, and today we have a technology platform that has proven to be highly resilient and available, hugely scalable, very secure, and compliant. The foundation of Coupa's cloud-based service is our ability to deliver a secure and scalable service that's always available to our customers. There's a good reason we’ve been in the top right quadrant of most every relevant analyst report for years, including being named a Leader in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Procure-to-Pay and a Leader in The Forrester Wave™ eProcurement Platforms, Q4 2019.

Coupa’s Core Platform Design Principles That You Can Rely On
Coupa’s technology platform is rock solid and secure, built with critical design principles consistently followed for years. All additions or changes to the platform are continuously tested against all of these principles:

Resilient

Compliant 

Secure 

Extensible 

Zero Data Loss

Elastic

Fast

Easily Supportable

Taking on IT Complexity and Shadow IT
The issues that cause the most concern for enterprise architects when implementing new platform-level solutions involve system-to-system integrations that are ‘heavy’ – requiring the integration of many data points between systems. These challenges just don’t exist with Coupa. Coupa is a service that integrates simply, and we manage the complexity of it for you.  

Coupa’s Holistic, Unified Spend Platform Reduces App Sprawl
Because Coupa provides one platform that covers all spend, customers reduce the number of applications supporting their spend process dramatically, in some cases, from 15 down to 5. In one example from a real-life SAP implementation, they had 15 different applications deployed covering spend management. These applications are not natively integrated, requiring work from IT to build and maintain integrations. Many of these applications are also likely to be the rogues of "shadow IT" where IT staff has built complex spreadsheets in lieu of proper applications or to fill gaps in the portfolio.

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A Common Misconception: One Vendor Does Not Equal One Platform
The few available alternatives to Coupa may at first glance seem appealing, but if you look closer, you’ll find more complexity, a lack of capabilities, and old-fashioned hard-to-use interfaces. Just because “a solution” comes from one big vendor with a recognized logo, the solution’s applications (or “modules”) aren’t necessarily integrated or built on a common code base or on the same upgrade schedule. This causes endless problems for IT teams tasked with managing these estates. With these deployments, IT can find itself in constant upgrade mode.

 A Unified Platform Makes Data Management Simpler and Reduces Shadow IT
With all spend-related data in one repository with one consistent architecture, the nightmare of syncing disparate datasets is eliminated. Coupa’s unified platform also enables you to discover and whittle out Shadow IT, reducing your technical debt.

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Coupa Can Reduce Integrations By Up To 80%
Before they chose Coupa, one global Insurance company had an Ariba deployment for Procure-to-Pay that included 82 integration points! 

Why? Because the SAP model permits custom integrations, with the result being that most every request the business makes for an integration – whether necessary or not – usually gets created. In the case of this insurance conglomerate, it led to a very difficult-to-manage, highly complex deployment environment.

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When the company chose Coupa, they adopted Coupa’s ”Light Touch Integration” approach: only integrate what is absolutely necessary for the business process to function effectively. Using MuleSoft middleware the company reduced the number of integrations from 82 down to 16, without any degradation of the business process workflow.

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Why Pick an Alternative to Your ERP Supplier for BSM?
Many of these big vendors have filled in the gaps in their ‘big ugly’ ERP systems, attempting to capture new markets through acquisitions. Buyer beware. In general, we all like the idea of doing more with existing vendors, rather than adding a new vendor to the mix. But the traditional ERP players have kludged together systems that were not designed to work together to offer ‘solutions’ gussied up by marketing under a trusted brand name (See “What’s going on at SAP Ariba?” on Spend Matters.)

Coupa is Easy to Integrate With Your ERP, Extending its Reach and Power
Coupa's open approach makes it easy to integrate with your existing ERP and financial systems. Standard integrations with SAP, NetSuite, Intacct, and CoupaLink partners – along with open APIs – make integration simpler, easier, and quicker than traditional ‘heavy’ integrations.

Ease of Use = User Adoption = ROI
Over 25% of the world’s companies run SAP and have for many years. Yet user adoption of ERP-system automated business processes for procurement, invoicing, and expense management still hovers between 20 to 40 percent. Deploying Coupa’s modern, easy-to-use, easy-to-configure platform changes that. Our customers regularly report adoption levels exceeding 90%

For example, one of our customers had a legacy Ariba system that made a user spend 40 to 45 minutes to go through the process of ordering a computer. With Coupa it now takes just five to seven minutes.

Coupa delivers a mobile-enabled experience that’s familiar and intuitive across every interaction to drive adoption by employees and suppliers. Coupa provides a simple drag-and-drop configuration-based approach, so specialist coding skills are not required for many tasks that previously required expensive staff or consultants. 

Customers can extend Coupa using drag-and-drop configuration to create additional fields that automatically appear on the open Coupa interfaces. Compare this to the big ERP vendors where you will need to pay for these to be added due to the inflexibility of their approach.

Reasonable Deployment Schedules – Months, Not Years – 2 to 4 Times Faster Than Alternatives
In procurement, legacy systems are the most challenging to deploy, with proprietary closed architectures and a multitude of customizations common. This makes them extremely difficult to integrate and expensive to manage, with two years and longer common for deployment. It also makes them a pain to upgrade as customizations often stop working with upgrades. Coupa’s "evergreen" extensive configuration approach and single codebase avoid all of this.

With Coupa’s open architecture and light integration approach, the majority of deployments take three to six months, with the most complex of deployments taking up to ten months. Deployment time depends on the number of ERP elements being integrated, the number of countries, and how many BUs are being rolled out

Zero-Touch Upgrades From a Constantly Innovating Platform
With many non-Coupa solutions, the IT team is responsible for implementing and managing the upgrade process when the vendor introduces a software upgrade. Because of the complexity of most deployments – with dozens of integrations, massive amounts of customization, and multiple ‘variants’ or ‘realms’ depending on the number of ERPs – these become major projects. In one case, when a company upgraded its Ariba deployment from version 8.1 to 9.2, it took two years! 

Coupa is a 100% cloud SaaS solution, requiring a zero-touch approach from an IT perspective. With no custom code allowed in Coupa and Coupa’s light touch integration approach, upgrades are straightforward. The result is that IT resources that once were involved in massive upgrade projects can now be focused elsewhere. Some customers do not even perform any testing on new versions – they let us get on with it and trust that Coupa has performed the regression testing, which we do extensively right up to and including all integration endpoints.

Visibility and Control Over Your IT Spend
The control and visibility over spend that Coupa provides for the finance team and business units are also available for the IT team to gain control over its own spend. 

For companies who use non-Coupa solutions, a high level of maverick spend caused by lack of user adoption is common. For example, if an employee needs a laptop, they purchase one from the web or a local store and then expense it back. Why? Because the P2P system they are being asked to use is too cumbersome and difficult to use.

Similarly, services contracts are often managed in Excel spreadsheets or Access databases, which have grown over time, usually without any standard format, no alerting into expiration, no connection to the P2P system, and little visibility beyond a small number of people. Even worse, the reality is many organizations manage their service contracts using a heap of paper in a long-forgotten desk drawer, so people don’t remember them and can’t simply pay for the appropriate and approved recurring invoices.

With Coupa, the focus is on user adoption: Coupa is easy to use so users can easily find what they need and do things quickly and efficiently – simply create a requisition, get it approved, and get on with the job. This ensures that people needing IT equipment or services will use the system, which in turn provides visibility and control over IT spend. And with all contracts with services suppliers managed in Coupa, you get full visibility across all contracts and automatic alerting when contracts are due to expire.

You Don’t Need to Worry About Coupa’s Resilient Technology
The way we look at it, we deliver a service that provides value to our customers, and everything we've built and succeeded with over the past decade makes us resilient. Whether in the best of times or during the toughest moments, the Coupa platform is online and performing for you. Along the way, your data is secure and privacy is assured, integration is simple, and ultimately Coupa delivers the capabilities your business needs to excel in managing procurement. We have multiple certifications that have been independently audited to ensure that the security, privacy, and operational controls in place are effective.

We believe our customers should be able to focus on evaluating the value Coupa delivers. Enterprise architects don’t need to worry – or even be concerned about – the technicalities of the Coupa platform, its services or resiliency, because we’ve got it covered. As one Senior IT Director recently told us, "I wish more cloud vendors had it as together as you do!"