CTX: Connect to X (Connect to Anything)

February 12, 2018

As part of any typical P2P platform implementation, a range of business scenarios are evaluated to determine how the tool will accommodate the process. P2P tools are very good at solving for standard scenarios. However, invariably, customers will have complex business processes that fall outside the “typical” P2P process.

These processes may be specific to industry, size, geographic location, etc. Solving for these “edge cases” may require customizing a platform but this is not always the best practice for ensuring intuitive user experience and system maintenance. Many software providers understand this and build API toolsets into their platform so that these scenarios can be handled.

As an example, Coupa, a global leader in the SAAS/S2P space, has a comprehensive API toolset. Effective use of this toolset has been found to be critical to the success of many implementations.

Introduction to CTX
Early identification of complex business processes (which require an API solution) has been a pain point in many implementations. Often these “edge cases” are not always planned for (or fully understood) during the software selection or design phase of the project. An unexpected requirement for an API call can delay or extend a project by 4-6 weeks.

The Shelby Group’s answer to this problem was to create the CTX tool. This adapter can be used to implement a complex business process requiring an API solution.

CTX is a simple adapter/tool that can facilitate the integration between Coupa and an external system requiring near real-time communications. With CTX, you can conduct complex, external validations to any of your in-house systems. We have pre-built this tool so it can be quickly deployed without drastically affecting implementation timelines.

CTX Technical Capabilities
CTX consists of sets of components which can connect to Coupa and other systems and perform the required business logic. The following are some of the capabilities of CTX:

  • Automatic approval process through external system validations
  • Populating sets of fields on Coupa based on external lookup
  • Integrating master data from ERP to Coupa using API
  • Validating invoice tax against tax applications, built-in connectors and translators for tax applications such as Avalara and Vertex
  • Integrating external transactions into Coupa via API
  • Synchronize transaction data between Coupa and ERP systems using API

CTX is a custom-built tool so it needs to be housed in a server outside of Coupa. Shelby has its own cloud instances where CTX has been deployed. Alternatively, customers can also deploy CTX on their own cloud or on premise servers.

Use Case 1: Automate Complex Validations for Compliance Related Data
Working with the government can be a tedious business.

We recently engaged with a defense contractor who had many requirements when it came to reporting and compliance. It is safe to say that what is ‘standard’ for the U.S. Government and Department of Defense is far from the ‘standard’ in the public and private sectors and is not always a top priority consideration for software providers. Our client had a particular challenge in that defense contractors have to capture and log many data elements on purchases that do not have any functional impact within the tool.

As a systems implementer of procurement platforms, this goes against a lot of our recommendations to cut out unnecessary steps or “red tape” when adopting a new tool. Needless to say, there was no wiggle room on removing any of these fields that do not drive workflow and are infrequently (if ever) reported on.

With CTX, we were able to build and store tables that could be leveraged for external validation and field population without having to create workarounds or less than ideal solutions with Coupa’s out-of-the-box capabilities. This was a relatively simple application of Coupa’s API but still would have impacted the timeline by 4-6 weeks if it were built from scratch. Our client was able to maintain the same government requirements without ruining the user experience in their new tool that was internally touted as “intuitive” and “easy to use.”

Use Case 2: Automate Defaulting Tax-Related Data Fields Required in ERP
Taxes are complex. A myriad of purchase criteria must be considered to determine the final tax rate: What category of goods/service is it? Where is it being shipped from? Where is it shipping to? Is the seller an individual or a corporation? Etc.

These criteria can change at any given time. Because of this, there are dedicated tax engines which connect with procurement systems to calculate these rates. We have facilitated many tax engine deployments as part of our Coupa implementations. A recent client, however, did not fall into this standard model. Their ERP was set up to calculate and validate taxes and did not leverage an external tax tool that Coupa could leverage. This meant that Coupa needed to populate and pass specific ERP related tax data on the invoice that would enable the ERP to validate taxes and process the accounting. This presented quite a dilemma – Those tax related fields were determined by logic housed in the ERP. This meant the user would need to be trained to manually select those fields in Coupa (leading to a bad user experience) or we would need to leverage an external tax engine to validate taxes on the invoices before it went into the ERP (a timeline delay of at least 12 weeks).

This was an ideal use case to leverage our CTX tool. We were able to capture the data tables from the ERP, enhance the logic and were able to populate those data fields on the invoice in Coupa via its API functionality. Being able to leverage this prebuilt solution enabled our client to avoid a costly and unnecessary implementation of a tax engine which would have impacted both their budget and timeline.

It is evident from the above examples that having CTX as a tool in your back pocket allowed these projects to be deployed within the expected timeframe and to the customer’s satisfaction.

The outcome of these projects would look very different if the implementation was constrained to the standard methods available. Coupa is aware of this and has had the foresight to provide access to its platform through the API toolset.

When considering your specific implementation situation, it may be prudent to align with an implementation partner who knows how to use all tools at their disposal, instead of one who is only familiar with the standard processes.


By: Nomare Sattar (Senior Manager), Douglas Poucher (Senior Consultant) & Venkat Madheswaran (Manager)