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Punchout or you're out: Coupa partner solves punchout catalog woes

 

A punchout site is a connection from within your own catalog or procurement system to a supplier’s website. The punchout catalog is maintained by the supplier but integrated with the buyer’s procurement system and uses the negotiated pricing as well as any special offers or discounts.

 

For buyers, punchout sites are a great alternative to maintaining catalog information for high-volume or rapidly changing catalogs, because it reduces their catalog maintenance efforts while keeping those purchases within your visibility and control. In fact, the most recent Coupa Benchmark calls out "number of punchout sites" as a key procurement success metric.

 

But if you’re a supplier, providing punchout capability to all the different companies you do business with can become a costly nightmare. Coupa partner PunchOut2Go is working to make it easier.

 

PunchOut2Go has its roots in web development. Web developers Brady Behrman Shawn McKnight and  were developing a site for a small hardware supplier in Richmond, VA. During development one of the supplier's biggest customers, the State of Virginia, announced they were moving spend management to the Cloud with Ariba. Their message to the hardware company: “If you can't provide punchout, you're out."

 

The vendor turned to their web developers for help.“They sent me an email that said, ‘This looks pretty easy. What do you think? “We thought it was brutal. It was 450 pages of cXML punchout catalogdocumentation,” says Behrman. “It was out of this world.”

 

Being in the web development field, Behrman and McKnight were accustomed to having tools and APIs to be able to easily connect payment gateways, shipping functions and other systems. They were surprised to find that none of that existed in the punchout world. So they built it.

 

“We did it, because our customer had no choice,” says Behrman, “About three months in, we realized how difficult this was going to be. We went live in about eight months—it was very tough to do.”

 

After completing that first integration, Behrman created a page offering punchout catalog integration on his website and leads started coming in. Shortly thereafter, he attended a State of Virginia Supplier Expo and was inundated with requests. That's when he and his partners realized there was a big opportunity for an extensible punchout solution.

 

Entering the world of punchout was like falling down the rabbit hole into a world of hurt for both suppliers and buyers. Punchout capabilities can open the doors to a lot of opportunity for suppliers, but they are hard to build. There are only a handful of punchout developers in the world, mostly working on proprietary systems, so you can only use their integration if you use their platform.

 

That leaves most IT departments on their own to figure it out. Although skilled in programming languages, integration and testing, punchout is not something most IT departments have encountered, so there’s a very steep learning curve. Behrman and McKnight's experience--eight months to build a punchout integration was not uncommon. In fact, some integrations take years.

 

To further complicate matters, each platform and e-procurement system has its own language and way of integrating. Suppliers have to reinvent the wheel for each company. Or, like the hardware supplier, risk losing the business.

 

Just getting a working integration is challenge enough. Forget about best practices like testing. It’s basically, roll it out and debug as the complaints come in. Some procurement systems offer a test environment, but again it’s just for that one system. That’s not scalable for the supplier, and it's terribly frustrating for integration teams, especially when they're working with suppliers with limited resources and knowledge, says Behrman.

 

Over the course of several years, Behrman and his team developed PunchOut2Go as an adaptable gateway solution for suppliers. PunchOut2Go gives suppliers the ability to integrate any e-commerce application to any procurement system.

 

Coming from a web development background, Behrman believed open source technology was the way to go, so that’s how they built PunchOut2Go. “The way our gateway works is, we build a profile for every different procurement system that contains any variations from the normal cXML, OCI, xCBL XML, etc.” says Behrman. “Once integrated, this gives suppliers the ability to connect with any of their customers' procurement systems”.

 

Behrman says PunchOut2Go has now built over 50 such procurement system profiles within the gateway, connecting buyers to their suppliers of all sizes. For example, Roche Diagnostics has hundreds of accounts around the globe with customers on various procurement systems. They all can connect seamlessly through PunchOut2Go, which then communicates data to and from the e-commerce application in a consistent format.

 

Behrman and his team also developed a portal, a glorified test suite that allows suppliers the ability to simulate the entire procure to pay process on any platform. That’s important, because while some procurement systems will allow you to test, it is usually just one connection.

 

With PunchOut2Go, they can punchout to their store. They can return the cart back to the PunchOut2Go portal to simulate bringing a requisition back to the buyer. They can go through approvals and also test converting to a purchase so they can test the whole punchout-to-purchase order-to-invoicing sequence. They can see branding, see the interface, test punching out using different browsers, and really get the full experience from start to finish.

 

Beyond testing, The PunchOut2Go Portal provides suppliers important analytical information including conversion rates, clear visibility into sessions in, sessions out and document routing.

 

“We've enabled Punchout in as little 15 or 20 minutes,” says Behrman. “It just depends on the application. We're able to connect the dots with any e-commerce application to any procurement system. But I would say that from start to finish, 30 days is sufficient.”

 

Behrman chalks PunchOut2Go's success up to an outsider mindset. “Our approach is much different. We speak web languages, as opposed to procurement language. They really just need to connect to the gateway, and the gateway deals with everything else. They don't have to be completely educated on a 450-page document. In fact, we've turned that 450-page document into an 8-page document with really nice, big letters."

 

For more information, visit PunchOut2Go.com.