Sikich LLP is a business and technology consultancy who’s close to 1,500 team members provide advisory, consulting, and technology services to clients in life sciences, manufacturing, professional services, and other industries. The company’s life sciences practice spans the industry and supports more than 200 life sciences clients, including biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies, CROs, and lab diagnostic companies.
Sikich collaborates with Coupa, the provider of the widely adopted business spend management platform, to offer life sciences firms a comprehensive, cloud-based solution to manage their spending, procurement, and supply chain with great efficiency and transparency.
Big4Bio recently talked with Jim Hickey, Partner in Charge of Mid-Market Sales, Jim Ingram, Senior Mid-Market Account Executive, and Karen Soligon, Director of Coupa, to find out why Sikich offers the Coupa spend management platform to its life sciences clients and why it integrates Coupa with Sikich SuiteSuccess for Life Sciences, an ERP solution built on NetSuite.
B4B: Sikich has served the life sciences industry for many years. Why did you decide to partner with Coupa and offer the platform to clients?
Soligon: In one unified system, Coupa gives you all the functionality and controls to manage your spending, procurement, invoicing, and vendor relationships, along with the reporting tools to ensure regulatory compliance and transparency. It fits small startups as well as large, growing, already commercialized companies. Our clients find that Coupa is intuitive and easy to learn. It works equally well for scientists ordering lab supplies as for business managers who procure supplies and services.
Hickey: Coupa has advanced, enterprise-level capabilities, but easily scales to smaller organizations’ processes to help them operate more efficiently. Our life sciences clients tend to be anywhere in their organizational journey. Many realize that Coupa is right for them when they anticipate going public or experience strong growth—both conditions that require them to strengthen their finance and business management capabilities and streamline compliance.
Ingram: We should note that Coupa is a complete business spend management platform, not just a procurement system. Clients that are used to specialized, or point solutions, often find it surprising that Coupa offers the functionality they need as they start out, mature and grow, as they become more complex, and when they eventually go public. They won’t grow out of it.
B4B: So you have business spend management, procurement, supply management, and vendor management in one solution. What else is noteworthy about Coupa?
Soligon: Coupa compliance enablement is critical for life sciences clients. The solution makes it easier for them to meet the provisions of legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley. It also helps them comply with tax laws and offer compliant, electronic invoicing when they expand internationally.
Some other features are certainly worth mentioning. Coupa enables contract management, so you can set up and refine contracts with your suppliers, obtain approvals, and track spending within contract terms. On the Coupa platform, you can manage the sourcing of whatever you need, including competitive sourcing events and RFQs. It also lets you manage travel and related expenses. You can automate procure-to-pay processes, so you can keep invoicing and spending consistently within approved parameters without additional effort. It also helps your efficiency that you can use the Coupa mobile app to manage approvals and ordering.
Ingram: Our clients usually see fast, widespread user adoption because the Coupa interface requires only minimal training. It’s also easy for them to bring their vendors onto the platform through the Coupa portal. Coupa doesn’t charge for getting suppliers onboard, whereas many procurement software competitors do. That can get very expensive.
B4B: How does Sikich work with life sciences clients that choose Coupa? What does an engagement look like?
Hickey: We work with and for them from concept and inception to growth and organizational evolution, commercialization and beyond.
Ingram: We maintain a seamless practice that spans presales, sales, delivery, and support, with close collaboration and complete knowledge transfer between account teams, solution architects, project managers, and technical and support specialists serving clients. We ensure continuity throughout clients’ relationships with Sikich. Often, a client’s first business development contact stays involved or serves as an executive sponsor as long as the engagement endures.
Soligon: We don’t ever abandon clients, and Coupa thinks about client relationships in the same way. They have a role called the customer value manager (CVM), who continues to help clients reap the benefits of Coupa as the platform evolves and their business grows. At Sikich, we also help clients assess the impact of Coupa upgrades, which happen three times a year. We inform them about upcoming enhancements and how they could be of value, and we work with them to adopt these changes smoothly.
B4B: How do you help your life sciences clients validate the success of a Coupa deployment?
Soligon: We define success metrics at the beginning of projects and refine them as clients’ business environments change. Depending on where they are in the lifecycle of their organization, certain outcomes will matter more to them than others. Early-stage and smaller life sciences firms often look for efficiencies. They want to streamline and speed up their accounts payable and other processes as they onboard more suppliers. With Coupa, clients achieve such efficiencies as training scientists to use the solution in just 15 minutes or using a single software tool to order millions of supply items. Of course, flawless compliance and unproblematic audits are important success criteria for practically all Coupa clients.
Hickey: When it comes to the ROI of Coupa, a program called Coupa Advantage makes a huge difference for clients. Coupa qualifies trusted suppliers and pre-negotiates agreements with them. Life sciences companies can realize substantially better supplier terms this way, especially if they are relatively small businesses which may not have a lot of experience, or leverage, in negotiating with leading vendors. As clients consider Coupa, we can always closely estimate their possible cost savings with Coupa Advantage.
Ingram: We suggest other meaningful metrics to life sciences clients based on our experience from many Coupa deployments. For example, it typically makes sense for them to assess reductions in the cycle times for the management of contracts, requisitions-to-order, supplier information, and expense report approvals. We may also advise them to measure increases in structured and on-contract spending, electronic PO and invoice processing, or greater supplier diversification in their spending.
B4B: Let’s talk about Coupa and ERP. Why do you integrate the spend management platform with Sikich SuiteSuccess for Life Sciences?
Hickey: From a client experience standpoint, having one unified, accountable team seamlessly and simultaneously deploy both solutions greatly simplifies and shortens the effort. The native, out-of-the-box integration between Coupa and NetSuite enables all the data flows and processes that need to take place smoothly and efficiently in life sciences companies.
Ingram: A fast, integrated deployment also results in a highly manageable, robust business management platform for life sciences firms. Updates are frictionless, and the integrated solutions have the resilience and flexibility to power life sciences companies as they grow and mature. Many clients find that they can sooner simplify their technology environment when they task us with deploying Coupa and SuiteSuccess for Life Sciences at the same time. If they’re used to working with a variety of software tools for managing contracts, vendors, travel, expenses, procurement, reporting, and finance, they often can eliminate at least some of these specialized solutions and generate additional efficiencies and savings.
Soligon: If you want to continue using an existing ERP solution that makes sense for your business, Sikich will integrate Coupa with it. For instance, we have delivered integrations that allow life sciences clients to use SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and other ERP solutions together with Coupa. You benefit from connected, seamless processes and data flows no matter what your starting point is.
B4B: When should life sciences companies think about getting Coupa? Is there a best time to adopt the platform?
Soligon: As life sciences firms evolve, they tend to outgrow the systems that worked well for them when they were smaller. Growth spurts and organizational changes are crossroads where companies need to either improve and update their technologies or consider hiring more administrators to manage the business. Spend management is a critical area where you can adopt an intuitive, powerful technology platform to help you gain efficiencies, maintain compliance, and focus on your mission and goals more than on everyday operations. Our Coupa clients can also keep their finance and procurement headcounts low. For example, life sciences firms we know have just two procurement specialists support 500 team members or two accounts payable managers handle over 1,000 invoices per month.
Hickey: When life sciences companies find it challenging to recruit and retain talent, Coupa helps them be an employer that empowers people. You can give scientists an easy way to order lab materials and enable business and finance teams to make a greater contribution to the business as they manage procurement, contracts, invoicing, and other tasks with a fraction of the effort they would have to expend in a more fragmented technology environment.
Ingram: Many life sciences companies adopt Coupa in the run-up to going public. Sikich helps them time their software deployment and other technology modernizations, so they have all systems in place to reach that major milestone smoothly and without unexpected challenges. You should have your Coupa and SuiteSuccess for Life Sciences environment fully deployed and adopted by users roughly six to nine months before your go-public date. Keep in mind that the length of implementations varies, but they generally take about four months.
B4B: In closing, would you like to point out any other aspects of Coupa or the work Sikich does for life sciences companies?
Soligon: Coupa offers a unique blend of cloud technology, supporting programs, and community. We already mentioned Coupa Advantage. Another valuable program is Spend Guard, which uses AI and machine learning to analyze business spend and draw attention to potentially fraudulent transactions as they happen. With regards to Coupa’s community building, as a customer you can participate in forums where people generously share ideas and experiences, or creatively help each make the best of the platform. Community also comes into play when Coupa publishes updates. Requests and suggestions from the user community feed directly into the solution’s continuous improvement.
Ingram: I find it very rewarding to watch the successes and growth of our life sciences clients. Sikich plays a part in them achieving their goals, and I’m proud to be involved in helping them save lives.
Sikich LLP is a global company specializing in technology-enabled professional services. Sikich draws on a diverse portfolio of technology solutions to deliver transformative digital strategies and ranks as one of the largest CPA firms in the United States. For more information, go to Sikich.com.