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Face to Face with Rob Bernshteyn – CEO Coupa Software

Q. There’s a significant amount of “noise” about Coupa at the moment. Why do you think that is?rob bernshtyn2

A. I think there’s been a sea change in how the whole P2P process can be run, a re-thinking of how it can be supported through IT. The way that the tools can now be adapted to optimise spend via the cloud has not really been seen before. And I think the reason why there’s the “buzz” around Coupa is that quite simply, we do it better. Ultimately it’s the customer who decides an organisation’s success or otherwise, and if you can provide them with a means to do things better and more easily, then those customers are going to keep coming back.

Q. My audience is predominantly Accounts Payable, but increasingly what was once considered a separate function, is now a part of an integrated P2P department, with much more collaboration. Do you see yourselves moving away from being a predominantly e-Procurement solution provider, to encompass AP and move further into the P2P space?

A. Well, we do cover the space as a whole. We may not be the vendor of choice for an organisation which needs thousands of different AP functions, but if you optimise spend and drill down into your purchasing and supplier base to begin with, you’re already more than halfway to a cleaner AP solution. AP may be downstream, but if you clear what’s coming into it, the waters as a whole are all that little bit less muddy. Ultimately providing a solution which increases visibility and enriched data is key to whole P2P function.

Q. With most organisations looking to save money across their supply chain, how is Coupa helping them to achieve this?

A. It’s all about visibility and being able to extract accurate data from the system. In the vast majority of organisations, there’s a lack of high integrity data, particularly from a purchasing point of view. When pricing information is thrown carelessly and inaccurately into the system, it’s almost impossible for organisations to extract useful data about who’s buying what, from where and how much they’re paying. And if you’re unable to find that, then organisations find themselves in a situation where key suppliers get frustrated if they’re not being paid on time and the organisations themselves could be missing out on savings by paying over the odds for goods and products. In this case, the Coupa system allows for a “hot swap” from one badly performing supplier to another more appropriate one.

One of the benefits of Coupa solution is the provision of key data such as visibility on savings and workflow, and also enables them to benchmark how their organisations are operating against others in the Coupa network. For example if one organisations approval process takes 6 days, and the standard across the network is 3 days – it’s easy to see where that process breaks down. What we’re aiming for is the “Amazon experience”, ie where the business to business application of the product is as user friendly as shopping online in a business to consumer fashion.

Q. Recently Coupa has been acknowledged as the most recognised cloud spend management solution above Ariba and in fact, Ariba and SAP combined. There’s obviously a lot of loyalty and brand recognition – what's Coupa's appeal?

A. Firstly the appeal is the product itself – its flexibility, usability and the visibility that it provides, but that’s only part of the answer. Secondly it’s the equality of the experience between us as providers and our customers. We see them as equal partners, a statement which is qualified by our 97% renewal rate.

Q. OK, that leads me onto the next question around your pricing model. A lack of clarity in pricing and fear of creeping charges is often cited as one of the barriers for more widespread SaaS adoption. How do you address this issue?

A. Going back 10 years of so when providers were selling on-premise solutions, all the risk was on the customer. There were a lot of up-front costs, involving equipment, long term licencing and usually new staff and substantial training. This meant that the organisations often took on consultants to help them in the procurement process, consultants who then went on to stay there.

The difference with Coupa is that we’re 100% in the cloud, with a pay as you go annual subscription model. If the customer is unhappy they can cancel. In the past organisations spent a long time in the RFP process, and that doesn’t really happen anymore. The risk is shared, and customers recognise and trust in a process which puts them on an equal footing.

Q. So, if an organisation already has an existing ERP system, say SAP, and perhaps has an e-invoicing solution, can your platform integrate easily within existing frameworks?

A. That’s straightforward – we simply wouldn’t be in business if we couldn’t do that. We position ourselves as a strategic business extension. So, we’re not saying get rid of your existing solutions and Coupa can take its place, it’s more about adding an extra dimension at the top end to fine tune processes and extracting better quality data.

Q. And finally, recently there’s been some high profile collaborations in the automation software space such as Ariba and SAP, and on a smaller scale between Tradeshift and Taulia – are channel partnerships or collaborations on the cards for Coupa?

A. Oh, absolutely. At Coupa we’re all about the customer experience and the quality of the product. If collaborating with someone else can help achieve that, we’re not going to stand in the way. These days commerce is all about collaborating and networking. So really, it’s all about whatever gives the best value.

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