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News Room > Blog > Coupa Inspire 2015 – Xoomworks Breakout Session

Coupa Inspire 2015 – Xoomworks Breakout Session

Ian Dagg


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At the recent Coupa Inspire Paris ’15 event, Kelly Lewis of Xoomworks hosted Patricia Wilson, Head of Sourcing Operations at Swiss Re, for a fantastically oversubscribed live Breakout session. For those of you who did not manage to make it into the session, we wanted to share excerpts of the transcript with you, that detail the approaches and lessons learned during a real life example of a truly global Coupa implementation, right from the client’s mouth.

Swiss Re are a leading and highly diversified global reinsurance company, with 11,000 employees, complex sourcing needs, and three main purchasing locations in Zurich, US and UK.

Patti talked about the progress of their global roll-out of Coupa technology: the strategies they successfully used to engage other departments and those they are developing along the way, as well as how Coupa technology is driving earlier visibility and savings opportunities.

Xoomworks Procurement was the partner who set up and supported Swiss Re’s global design for Coupa and the roll out at their first site – Bratislava.

The following are the questions asked by Kelly during the session, expand to see Patti’s response:


Patti: Well, in February last year we successfully rolled out Coupa to our first site – Bratislava. Bratislava was chosen for the combined reasons that it was a ‘greenfield’ location where we could test out the Global Design and usability, as well as it being the base of our AP & Sourcing operations.

We are currently In the process of rolling out to Zurich, which accounts for half of our spend globally, with a delivery date of January next year. Once completed the road map is then to roll out in London, quickly followed by US and finally the Asia Pacific. The goal is to complete roll-outs globally by 2017.


Patti: For us there were 2 main drivers; cost and usability. We currently have two legacy systems, one in Zurich and the other in the UK and US, but neither are user friendly and neither supports our goal to drive compliance, and we have never had any recognised solutions in Asia.

We recognised the opportunity that a single, user friendly tool supported by solid change management and process redesign could bring to our organisation. It was a great chance to streamline some common procurement processes using a common language with standardised back office support.


Patti: Even though it is still early days, we are getting there; we have had some really great early wins particularly in AP.


Patti: Our core strategy was to use Bratislava as a pilot scheme: we would conduct stakeholder analysis and gain sponsorship, which was key, as well as develop a change management programme, which was run by a dedicated person.


Patti: You could say that everything is going entirely to plan! As Bratislava was a small site we could take a Greenfield approach and take away key learnings, adapting our plan based on what we learned before rolling out to the other locations.
By using Bratislava for the Global Template we managed to get to know the ‘tech’. As a project team we now know the technology far better and as such can manage expectations and configuration options ourselves. We relied on the Xoomworks team initially which was great but we wanted to stand on our own two feet.

We gained a fantastic resource in the form of system advocates, who were already integrated with teams from other locations. The Bratislava based AP, Sourcing, and Operational function teams play supporting roles to the Zurich and UK offices. As such they have been able to advocate the new system and processes, helping to influence and ease the project into these these new locations.

We achieve some early wins, and having some solid messages for the business before we started rolling out elsewhere was great for the hearts and minds. Interestingly, one of the biggest wins we achieved actually came from one of the groups that caused us out biggest initial problems. AP was an area that initially showed considerable resistance and at one stage stated that they would not go with Coupa and that the programme had to stop. We were able to devote time and resource to understanding their issues and due to our work and the great support we got from the senior Finance stakeholders we were able to turn this into a real success – AP were going through a restructure during our programme, taking on the processing of other businesses and adding this to their burden was initially seen as a step too far, but now we have saved on headcount, reduced invoice processing from 25 mins to 5 and this has allowed the team to take on their additional workload without needing to take on more people.

The pilot in Brataslava also allowed us to involve some of the less obvious but highly influential functional stakeholders (such as Marketing and legal) with acceptance testing. It was a really good win as we managed to get them listened to and feeling involved early on, addressing their concerns and winning their support at the same time.


Patti: During implementation in Bratislava we realised we needed to focus on process improvement:

We recognised that we missed a few workstreams in the pilot and have addressed this now – We have added workstreams for Reporting, Finance and Business processes – we have also ensured that these workstreams are run by stakeholders in the business rather than from inside the project team, and that we should not be afraid to change resources.

We realised as we were progressing the extent to which this is a change programme and not just a technology project , whilst we knew this from the start, it has been clear that the management of the change through great comms and tight stakeholder engagement have been the key things to create the change we wanted.

We have truly recognised that getting the key requisitioners such as departmental administrators, stakeholder’s PAs and other support members is the route to successful change and high adoption rates. Engaging the users in business process reviews earlier on helps them understand what is going to change for them and they can begin to see how easy Coupa is to use from the beginning. They will also know in particular whom to turn to when they need support AND they are supported for the early days after go live. They know they are being listened to.


Patti: There is no doubt that the project team is better prepared; the structure is right and the knowledge is far deeper, mitigating many of the risks. We have confidence in our global design, and the adjustments we have made.

Likewise the messages that are going out particularly to Zurich – both controlled comms as part of the change strategy and informal messages through the teams are being received very well. Interest in the project is high with several of the key user groups asking for more info and eager to get engaged.

We have many of the key stakeholders within Zurich already up for the change because of what they have seen and heard in Bratislava, and many of the back office team responsible for AP and Sourcing in Zurich but based in Bratislava are already trained or informed in the new ways of working.

So whilst I wouldn’t say that Zurich will be a breeze, I would say that we are far more ready and being very proactive with engaging stakeholders to help manage the change and build awareness early on.


Patti: The accessibility Coupa brings is a definite win, but in all honesty we actually had pretty good data before we embarked on this programme, particularly in Bratislava, Zurich, London and US, because we were capturing all POs. The issue with the old system though was that around 65% of this PO data was being captured after the fact as retrospective POs created by the Sourcing team. The real change is that now this data is being created up front by the requisitioners.


Patti: Our vision is to push much more of the purchasing process up to the requisitioners. As a result the Sourcing team will gain visibility into this requirement before the fact, and can really start to affect the buying before it is committed. This can deliver significant benefit to the business – not only in savings but in changing the perception of the procurement department into a real value add service, rather than an administrative or policing function.

Coupa is helping us realise this vision as:

  • It is easy and a pleasure to use
  • It provides a common process and system, across all locations and is relevant to all parts of the business
  • It can handle all spend, so there is no confusion as to when to use it vs. any other system

We genuinely think that this ease of use and understanding will translate into the business feeling that Sourcing in general is easy to engage with and so will happily engage with the team to give further benefits when they need our support.

To summarise Swiss RE engaged with implementation partner Xoomworks Procurement to create a global design for their Coupa technology adoption. They then ran a pilot scheme of this design focusing on key identified areas:

  • Getting early involvement from the people this will impact most: ensuring AP team’s adoption to the change, build confidence with existing supporters and involve stakeholders through things like UAT
  • Instil the mind-set that this is change, first and foremost not technology
  • Facilitate this change management across the breadth of the organisation, considering end user readiness and training
  • In this vein invest in early education of all the change agents
  • Focus on gaining some quick wins to build momentum for the project, e.g. reduced invoice processing from 25 mins to 5 in the AP department
  • Think carefully about process planning, about the workstreams and who runs them
  • Thoroughly learn the technology, so that the business can stand on its own two feet after the first roll out

They took the key learnings and early wins from this successful pilot to adapt and refine the plan as well as to ensure, and reinforce buy in across the breadth of the organisation, facilitating roll-outs globally.

Thinking about a Coupa implementation yourself? For more information on best practice see our FREE whitepaper “3 stages on a successful Source to Pay implementation Journey”, which details the areas organisations need to focus on during a S2P Project.

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