In our last post we asked whether or not Coupa inspired at Inspire, referencing our post from last week that asked if they would inspire and indicated where inspiration might come from, and determined that, for an average Procurement professional, Coupa most definitely inspired. But it’s Sourcing and Procurement. Did Coupa inspire Sourcing?
The short answer is no (but it’s not the full answer). Sourcing wasn’t really addressed beyond the statement that with the acquisition of Trade Extensions, most likely being (re)named Coupa Sourcing Optimization, Coupa now has the ability to do complex events, as complex as an organization requires. And while this is true, it’s not very inspiring to an organization that might not even know why they truly need advanced sourcing.
But then again, as of now, Coupa does not really understand advanced sourcing. Up until now, for a Coupa customer, sourcing has been very simple RFXs and basic auctions, age old sourcing technology that any strategic buyer would not find very interesting. But, fortunately for us, Coupa readily admits this. And, as of now, have not decided when, or even if, they are going to integrate Trade Extensions or Spend 360 into their core platform. (Their expectation is they will integrate what makes sense at the right time, but recognize that these were Power User Applications acquired primarily to support current, and future, power users.)
This is good news. The main reason every acquisition of a (strategic sourcing decision) optimization company has failed to date is, as pointed out in a previous post, because the acquirer believed they understood the technology, could integrate, and take it further (and immediately preceded to do just that). But, as we pointed out in a previous post, the ultimate procurement application is the exact antithesis of the ultimate sourcing application. For starters, one is no UI and the other is a UI so complex current desktop systems cannot support it yet.
Based on the history of acquisitions of advanced technology in our space, the only chance of success is to allow both of these acquisitions to more or less continue business as usual, independent of Coupa’s primary business, until such time as all parties collectively, and in conjunction with their collective user base, decide what integration makes sense, when, and how. (And, fortunately for us, this is exactly what Coupa plans to do.) Moreover, in most companies, the people that do the complex sourcing are not only a small user base but are not the people who do procurement and requisitioning. As a result, effective integration right now only consists of pushing transactional data to Spend360 for opportunity analysis, kicking off a sourcing event in Trade Extensions, and then pushing a selected award into Coupa for contract creation and tracking.
As long as Coupa takes advantage of the new Trade Extensions 6 capabilities to define workflows and UX that are easy to use and consistent with what a Coupa power user might define, then they can create a transition for their more advanced organizations into true sourcing, and, more importantly, the Trade Extensions 6 platform can offer a path for those customers that need a more modern Procurement application. And letting each unit do what it does best will insure that, for the first time in the history of acquisitions of advanced sourcing technologies, all parties will actually thrive.
In other words, by saying and doing essentially nothing at this point with respect to their recent advanced sourcing acquisitions, Coupa is actually doing the best they could actually do because it’s going to take them a while to figure out what they got, what they can do, and how all of these units will work together. As far as the doctor knows, they haven’t even hired a translator yet who speaks advanced optimization, machine learning, econometrics (and risk), and truly simplistic Procurement and can teach all parties a common language. So, even though they’ve historically advanced as fast as possible in Procurement, the fastest way for them to advance beyond is to actually slam on the breaks and start again in first gear. If they do this and maintain this philosophy, at a future Inspire, they will finally inspire sourcing in a way that their Source-to-Pay brethren have not.