Assimilating Innovation (Part 1 of 3): Why Coupa’s new alliance with KPMG may be the worst (or best) of times by Jon Hansen

Posted on April 10, 2013


Editors NOTE: It wasn’t that long ago that Coupa used to applaud my articles for the veracity of my research and the perspectives that I delivered regarding their growing presence in the market.  In fact I wrote a series of guest posts for the Coupa Cabana blog in which they informed me that the readership response was higher than it was for any other guest blogger.  But that was perhaps another time and sadly it appears another Coupa.

Because of the following post, Coupa expelled me from their LinkedIn group.  I will let you make the decision as to whether their actions were warranted after you read today’s post however, censorship in any form – especially given the fact that my work as always is well researched and well referenced – is usually a red flag worth noting.

The National Football League (NFL) was the longstanding established league similar to traditional media icons such as NBC, CBS etc.  To suggest that the NFL had a monopoly in terms of being the only place for an athlete with professional football aspirations to play would  be an understatement.

After what to some seemed like an interminable period of unchallenged domination, a group of individuals got together and decided that a new league – the American Football League – was needed if for no other reason than to provide both players and fans with an alternative to a stagnate and overly confident NFL.

When I wrote the above excerpt for my August 28th 2009 PI Window Blog post, I was analyzing the emergence of Blog Talk Radio and the impact of the new “social” media on the traditional “mediums” of terrestrial radio, television and newspapers.

The AFL – NFL analogy provided an interesting comparison in that the new upstart league was seen as innovative and exciting, while the staid old league, though dominant in presence, had become stagnate losing touch with its fan base.

Are we also witnessing a similar transformation in the procurement world?

Are we also witnessing a similar transformation in the procurement world?

With social media’s ascending presence and the emergence of citizen journalism, I reasoned that the same could be said for traditional mediums.  After all, experts such as J. William Grimes were predicting the death of newspapers based on declining readership and corresponding advertising revenue.

Even the seemingly unassailable and ubiquitous presence of television seemed vulnerable, as local TV stations began closing at an alarming rate.

Suffice to say a “merger” of the new media with the the traditional mediums was inevitable.  How well this integration is going in the here and now remains to be seen, as the “virtual” hard lines that separate the two are painfully obvious.  For example, as traditional media’s Oprah’s OWN network’s financial implosion continues, new medium stars such as Smosh draw huge audiences.

Against this backdrop, one wonders if the new media players actually need the traditional medium’s creditability and clout the way that the AFL needed the NFL for both to realize their maximum potential.

When I read about Coupa’s announced “alliance” with KPMG this same question immediately came to mind.

Having covered Coupa extensively over the past number of years (here is the link to all of my articles on Coupa), I could not help but wonder if the cloud-based solution provider – and SaaS or on-demand companies in general – needed the diminishing clout and creditability purportedly offered by traditional players in the supply chain space.  I am of course talking about ERP vendors as well as the consultants with whom they work such as KPMG.

Let’s face it, the industry giants of years past have struggled to deliver to client expectations.  Coupled with onerous pricing models, the door of market dissatisfaction was bound to validate the findings in a SIIA 2000 white paper titled Strategic Backgrounder: Software as a Service, in which industry experts predicted that “packaged desktop and enterprise applications will soon be swept away by the tide of Web-based, outsourced products and services.”

So while there is no surprise that the old guard (including the bloggers and pundits with whom they are aligned), are scrambling to redefine their DNA make-up to accommodate the new market reality, it is the response of the new titans as I call them, that I find most interesting.

Is their seemingly sudden embracing of the old guard surprising?  More importantly, will alliances such as the one between Coupa and KPMG (who’s approach to supply chain strategy is routinely questioned), going to diminish the rising star’s shine?

Are these new titans suffering from what I had once called the Oliver Twist Syndrome, where the need to merge is more a reflection of their own insecurities as opposed to the true value of an alliance with the industry’s Sunset Strip crowd?

Does Coupa suffer from an Oliver Twist Syndrome or is it just smart business?

Does Coupa suffer from Oliver Twist Syndrome or is it just smart business?

Only time will tell.

However, one thing is certain, innovation is a never ending process.  So whether assimilation is a good or bad thing for history’s most recent innovators such as Coupa, there is a new and even more exciting crop of players on the near horizon that promises to turn the present “blending” market on its proverbial ears.  I will be introducing these players in Part 3 of this series.

In the meantime, in Part 2 of this series I will closely examine the evolution of the traditional bloggers and pundits in terms of what they said in the past and how it differs from what they are saying now.


Posted in: Commentary