Test-driving e-procurement: Offer gives public sector free software for six months

A developer of on-demand e-procurement solutions has invited federal, state and local government agencies to use their spend management software free for six months.

San Mateo-based Coupa Software, Inc. announced earlier this month they were extending a 30-day free trial period to six months for prospective public sector clients. Coupa offers a web-based e-procurement platform for managing requisitions, approval processes, purchase orders, RFQs, desktop receiving, invoice payment and more. According to Jason Hekl, vice president of marketing at Coupa, the company saw a way to help local governments with their dwindling bottom lines.

“We saw the problems facing state and municipal governments – the employee pay cuts, the forced time off – and we knew we had a solution to help government save money,” Mr. Hekl said in an interview. “We’re a cloud-based solution, so customers can have great success with minimal cost,” he said.

And because of the nature of their SaaS solution, Coupa is able to innovate at a much faster rate than their market alternatives, Hekl continued. “We’ve had eight versions released over the last eighteen months. Our implementation [time] is measured in hours…from a user standpoint, it takes less than a month.”

Another noteworthy feature of Coupa’s e-procurement software is its iRequest and iBuy capabilities. These features allow agencies to “crowdsource spend control” by allowing customers to “find deals on their own,” without giving up control of which items are and are not covered in the procurement system, Hekl said.

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According to one industry observer and analyst, iRequest and iBuy represent the real value in what Coupa can do for the public sector in reducing a tendency known as maverick buying.

“Maverick buying is when someone buys off contract or without the proper authority. Coupa can greatly reduce maverick buying by creating a command and control structure for an agency that allows employees to requisition items while staying within the approved purchasing system,” Jason Busch, editor of the e-procurement website Spend Matters, said.

According to Busch, Coupa will have a difficult time competing at the federal level because procurement rules are extraordinarily complicated. Moreover, Coupa is not approved by GSA to do business with federal agencies, but Hekl was optimistic about smaller state and local government agencies being able to implement Coupa’s e-procurement software.

“Coupa is appealing for smaller agencies because [their fees] are extremely inexpensive [compared to other, more prominent integrators such as CSC and Booz Allen Hamilton] and their software is cheap to get up and running,” Busch said, pointing out that the reason most big players in spend management, such as IBM, Oracle or Peoplesoft, are not heavily involved with municipal government is because procurement in the public sector requires a lot of customization.

Despite the hurdles, Hekl believes they have a product that is a simple, yet compelling, tool for the public sector to save money.

“A lot of savings can be rung out of the way public sector does business.”

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