Daily Archives: July 27, 2006

Coupa Cabana Cafe: Open For Business

And to celebrate, they’re having the sale of the century! They’re practically giving it away. You can try it for free! You heard me! For Free! Now that’s a price that can’t be beat!

The reality is that Closed systems are dead. From software to supply chains, open is the new standard. And Coupa is making it reality, with the first open source eProcurement system designed to revolutionize your procurement process.

As printed in this month’s issue of Wired, it’s an All-Access Economy. Openness is a fundamental business principle. It’s what the internet is built on. Progressive software companies are taking the software-as-a-service model to the next level by exposing the API’s. You can tap into Amazon.com and eBay servers to create your own storefronts, Google to create your own maps, and Flickr to create your own montages.

And now, in addition to rolling your own Content Management System (CMS) with OpenCMS and Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) with Sugar CRM, you can roll your own eProcurement System with Coupa with its built in catalog management, adaptive “tag-cloud” indexing, and zero-click shopping cart. (Beat that Amazon!)

For those of your following along, I offered a glimpse of what was to come in my Procurement Independence at the Coupa Cabana Cafe post earlier this month. In this post, I’m going to dig a little deeper, but try to keep it short since you can now check it out for yourself at www.coupa.com.

The new site is pretty slick – and the one minute introduction video is all it should take to catch your interest. The video highlights ten key features of Coupa. I discussed half of these last week, but I’m going to list them all because most of them are innovative.

  • RSS Feed for the latest news from the procurement department.
    Every news site and blog should have a RSS feed!
  • Toolbar that ensures all actions are a click away.
  • Ask an Expert … where answers become part of a dynamically evolving FAQ.
  • Dynamic Adaptive Tagging.
    After all, no static classification scheme is ever complete.  This allows the classification scheme to evolve into what you need, not what someone else thinks you need.
  • Catalog items are accompanied by average employee ratings.
    This is awesome. When I go to Amazon or eBay, I do not care what John or Jane Doe think, I want to know what like minded people think … and in business, I want to know if it works for my like-minded co-workers.
  • Enterprise Policies are included in search and always available.
  • Drag and Drop Buying.
    This is the most intuitive shopping cart I’ve ever seen – as it captures the real-life usage of a cart.
  • Automatic population of ship to address and account information.
  • Graphical Approval Chain so a buyer always knows what the process is.
  • Attachment and Supplemental Document Support.

In addition, the web site points out the following capabilities:

  • Self Service Requisitioning
  • Goods and Services Support
  • Local Catalog Management
  • CSV Data Upload
  • Powerful Global Search Capability
  • Punch-out Support
  • Email Notifications and an on-line inbox
  • Requisition History
  • A How-To-Buy Policy Framework for integrated user education and always up-to-date document access
  • Contract Creation and Maintenance
  • Flexible PDF Purchase Order Generation
  • ERP integration APIs

And if you are willing to shell out a reasonable amount for the enterprise system, you also get:

  • role based access control
  • power user direct requisition entry forms
  • business groups
  • quickforms for special requests
  • REST ERP synchronization methods
  • no click requisition email templates … Beat that Amazon!

Essentially, employees use the interactive web interface to select items and submit for required approvals – the system determines the best price, the preferred supplier and the right contract, and then sends the purchase order electronically to the supplier. The company gets a standardized solution, which saves money and improves compliance, and employees get a system that they can actually use to get their work done.

In addition, Coupa provides support and implementation services. Open source users can buy per incident support packs and enterprise users get a full-featured support package that includes:

  • issue determination and bug fixes
  • updates, maintenance bundles, and patch support
  • issue diagnosis and resolution
  • performance tuning advice
  • exclusive support forums

In addition, Coupa offers implementation services, primarily through integrators and value-add resellers, that include eProcurement Deployment Best Practices, customization guidance, and integration assistance.

But let’s get down to business. This is an open source solution, being released to the community, which will, hopefully, improve upon it and return the improvements to Coupa and their customer base through the LGPL license. Coupa is starting off on the right foot by having a Wiki and a Forum, partitioned into general topics, open source, enterprise, and developers all ready to go from the beginning.

The wiki, which tracks updates, documentation, the coupa roadmap, and technology choices, allows you to report issues via tickets, which can then be searched using Coupa’s powerful search technology, or reported on using any one of the following reports:

  • Active Tickets
  • Active Tickets by Version
  • All Tickets by Milestone
  • Assigned, Active Tickets by Owner
  • Assigned, Active Tickets by Owner (Full Description)
  • All Tickets By Milestone (Including closed)
  • My Tickets
  • Active Tickets, Mine first

Coupa is built using Ruby on Rails and designed to work with just about any standard relational database (MySQL, SQLLite, Oracle, SQL Server, PostGreSQL, and DB2), web server(LightTPD, Apache, Mongrel, and IIS), and web browser (IE, FireFox, and Safari so far … I’m hoping Opera, which was the first to introduce many of FireFox’s key features, although it is not open source, is next) and runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux operating systems.

Dave Stephens explained why Coupa Technology uses Ruby on Rails in a recent post on Procurement Central. And for the most part, I agree with the choice. An open-source project needs to be built on efficient open-standard technology that is easy to use, penetrating the market, and appropriate to the task at hand. For the most part, Ruby on Rails fits those criteria.

However, I should note that I do not agree with Dave’s assessment of Java. Although Java is not a suitable choice for UI development (let’s face it, Swing is a real pain in the backside, JSP is a mess, and JSF is not intuitive to even a relatively experienced Java developer), I would still strongly consider Java for the application backend of an enterprise application. Java’s extensive libraries make the development of complex business logic, data structures, and persistence layers relatively easy. Java’s JIT compilation makes Java code as efficient as C++. Furthermore, XML, which is supported in Java by DOM, SAX, and JAXP, is development language independent and supports your language of choice for front end development. (And even though Dave is right in that many IDEs are bloated and overkill for many tasks, some, such as IntelliJ, actually make developing in Java a simple pleasure.)

All in all, Coupa has set the bar high for eProcurement applications.