Smarter Trips, Tech and Supplier Management at Coupa Inspire

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Woman presenting at Coupa Inspire.

Coupa Inspire 2015 is a wrap!

Today training sessions are taking place but most people are finding their way home tired - but inspired (we hope) to take their companies’ procure to pay process to the next level through Savings as a Service.

Managing supplier risk and innovation was again a dominant theme in yesterday’s sessions, in the breakout rooms and hallway conversations. And, as the technology conversation evolved, it became clearer that the same frictionless, intuitive technology enjoyed by consumers is finally coming to B2B to enable better supplier collaboration and more.

In keeping with that forward thinking theme, Coupa’s vice president of product development, Raja Hammoud began the day announcing Coupa Release 13, which is slated for general availability in July.  The release includes 65 enhancements across the platform incorporating advanced analytics, mobility and artificial intelligence.

One example is SmarterTrip, which Hammoud also announced. SmarterTrip is an enhancement to Coupa Expenses that follows the traveler, acting as a virtual personal assistant that predicts and pre-populates their expense report based on their itinerary, geo-location data and past usage is one example.

All enhancements grow out of the underlying principles that have informed platform development from the start, Hammoud said. These are: Learn once, know everywhere; intelligent touchless processing, and suite synergy, which shares data among modules to make the suite greater than the sum of its parts.

Many of the enhancements are based on customer suggestions, a fact which is not lost on customers. "I love that we can make a request in the user forum and if it gets enough interest from other customers it ends up making its way onto the roadmap. That is so cool,” was overheard in the Inspire Hall.

What drew the most customer appreciation though, was the announcement of the SIM application for supplier information management.

“You told us in conversations and customer advisory boards: Managing supplier info is the most time consuming process,” said Hammoud. “When we hear ‘time consuming process’ we’re on it.”

Applying suite synergy, suppliers will be prompted to update their information upon submitting their invoice. A screen shot of the product showing the message, “Thank you for your invoice. Please update your supplier profile” drew shouts of “yeah” from the audience. Current customers are invited to try the application and provide feedback ahead of general availability.

Hammoud’s  opening keynote presentation was followed by a CIO panel hosted by Ravi Thakur, Coupa’s vice president of customer success. Tom Carbonaro of Sanofi; Greg Higham of Marketo; Oscar German Nafarrate Salum of Grupo Herdez; John Strain of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., and Kendra Von Esh spoke of the changing role of IT in the cloud era.

"Today’s CIO is less technologist than business partner," said Von Esh. Their role now is to build relationships, understand needs and educate the business about solutions--or risk being reduced to being the last roadblock for a technology decision that is all but fait accompli. To partner with IT, “take it out of technology and into solutions,” recommended Higham.

At Williams-Sonoma, business owners pitch their projects, Hollywood-style, to the executive team and a governance board.  That changes ownership Strain said. “Technology projects aren’t really technology projects. They’re business projects,” said Strain.

"Today’s CIO," said German Nafarrate Salum, "has to be aware of the complexity and reach of purchasing and its impact on profit."

In the final general session, Mike O’Leary spoke about the Coupa-IBM partnership that was announced at IBM Empower last month. It’s a partnership that is very much focused on managing risk and unlocking supplier value.

Besides being on everyone’s mind at Inspire, those are two things that IBM’s Institute for Business Value CPO Study has found characterize top performing procurement organizations.

O’Leary shared IBM’s real math of success from their own procurement transformation, which took them from siloed tactical buying to an integrated, analytics-driven global team driving top line revenue as well as bottom line savings. Are we hearing echoes of Wednesday’s Inspire sessions?

During that transformation, he said the procurement team sourced and closed a big contract for wireless network switching. Three months later, missed opportunities and off-contract buying were rampant due to highly manual downstream systems.

The joint IBM-Coupa solution is designed to avoid exactly those challenges by unifying upstream sourcing with downstream implementation for “one stream” procurement.

The conference wrapped up with another afternoon of standing room only breakout sessions, and people visiting the math bar. If you weren’t here, or didn’t get a chance to go over your math, reach out to your Coupa representative. The real math of success is more than just a conference theme; it’s something we’ll hope we’ll be doing together for many years to come.