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With Coupa Inspire, The Sultans of Spend and a dose of WTF!

Tuesday 13th November, 2018

Last year was my first Coupa Inspire and I was surprised to find an event literally bursting at the seams. This year, the event moved to the thrusting modernism of the Intercontinental, next to the O2, overlooking London’s Canary Wharf. A bigger venue all round, and thanks to the vagaries of London transport, I was able to admire their penetration into the UK market as I looked over a sea of around 800 heads.

coupa inspire 18CEO Rob Bernshteyn was first up on the stage and listening to him, I was reminded of the first time I interviewed him back in 2012, and of how far the company has come since then. Now with $850bn under management, Bernshteyn outlined the Coupa vision which is helping to nudge them into a market leading position, by being Comprehensive, Open, User-centric, Prescriptive and Accelerated.Prescriptive and Accelerated (C-O-U-P-A)

It’s the kind of vision which attracts large global brands like Nike, who have achieved an 80% reduction in cycle times and 95% straight through processing since partnering with Coupa. And also Pearson who have lifted their spend compliance from 22% to 85%. Giving global brands that kind of shift into enhanced visibility and efficiency has the capacity to impact the industry more generally. I attended a couple of excellent sessions in the afternoon with the “Sultans of Spend” as well as Airbus, Aon, ISS and a company with the irritatingly young average age of 29, Zalando. We’ll be following up on those sessions later.

Average go-live times of around eight months for large enterprises sounds like a good, realistic figure, and outstrips the experience others I’ve spoken to recently have experienced with different vendors. For mid sized companies, it’s four months, which I think we’d all agree, is not long.

Which is a sobering thought if you consider that four months from now is March, when this country will be facing the biggest disruption and challenge it’s faced in a generation. In other words, Brexit. Sadly, keynote and leading economist and journalist, Robert Peston didn’t offer much by way of good news – but said we were heading into the most uncertain period in our lives. In his view, it’s likely that we’ll be well into the 2020s until living standards get back to where they were before the 2008 crash.

Happily, he does feel that it’s likely that we will agree a Brexit deal, but that whatever shape it takes, it’ll be one that many MPs "detest". But that a No Deal scenario is seriously being discussed, is likely to be something causing business leaders some sleepless nights. With this level of uncertainty, it makes sense that organisations assess where they might be most vulnerable in their supply chains and work force, and try and build in contingency plans where possible.

Brexit is starting to feel like a bit like a morbid fascination, and having queued for a signed copy of Peston’s “WTF” book, I found myself later on the train, turning the pages to see how it would all end. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this is not all actually a work of fiction. I guess we’ll all have to wait and see!