Coupa vs SAP Ariba: Comparing Two Leading Procurement Platforms

Need to modernize your procurement processes? SAP Ariba and Coupa are two leading procurement software providers that help companies streamline purchasing, manage supplier relationships, automate invoice processing, and optimize spend.

SAP Ariba enables a business to automate and manage their entire purchasing process, from sourcing to invoice approval. It boasts features like contract management, spend analytics, strategic sourcing, supply chain collaboration, and procurement automation. SAP Ariba also provides the SAP Business Network, a global network of suppliers that companies can connect with to find new opportunities.

Coupa is a business spend management platform that enables companies to oversee all spend in one spot. Coupa provides key features like expense management, invoicing, procurement, sourcing, and analytics. 

The main difference between the solutions is their deployment models. SAP Ariba has a larger focus on procurement automation as part of larger digital transformation initiatives in which other SAP products, like ERP, may be in use. Coupa, in contrast, is a source-to-pay suite that may be used by companies with heterogeneous IT environments. In this article, we’ll dive deep into both systems, as well as alternatives for optimizing your procurement processes today.

SAP Ariba: Achieve digital transformation from source to pay.

SAP Ariba offers cloud-based procurement management software that helps a business consolidate all spend in the source-to-pay cycle. Companies can streamline their purchasing processes and manage supply chain relationships with a suite of tools and applications for sourcing, procurement, and supplier management.

SAP Ariba also boasts a network of over 5 million suppliers across 190 countries worldwide. Its API, enabled by the SAP cloud integration gateway, integrates with other SAP products such as SAP Fieldglass, as well as with well-known third-party applications like Salesforce. 

The system is designed to reduce costs, optimize procurement processes, and enhance business relationships. The platform is used by a wide range of businesses, of all sizes, across a variety of industries.

Features & Benefits of SAP Ariba

What is SAP Ariba used for? SAP Ariba is a procurement platform that handles complex, multi-country procurement programs. Expect to find some of these main features and corresponding benefits:

Key Features

  • Procure-to-Pay (P2P): A P2P solution to streamline purchasing, control spend, and automate accounts payables processes.
  • Sourcing: Tools for managing sourcing events like RFPs, RFIs, and auctions, as well as evaluating suppliers and negotiating contracts.
  • Contract Management: Features to manage contracts, including contract authoring, approval workflows, and compliance tracking.
  • Analytics: In-depth reporting and analytics that helps a business recognize trends, forecast expenses, and identify opportunities for cost savings.
  • Supplier Management: Manage all vendors from a single platform, including risk management, onboarding, and performance tracking.

Top Benefits

  1. Improved supplier relationships: Manage all relationships from a single spot to help companies build stronger and more collaborative relationships with suppliers.
  2. Streamlined procurement process: Automate the entire P2P cycle, from purchase requisition to invoice and payment, saving a business time and money, while improving efficiency.
  3. Access to a global network: SAP Ariba has a network of 5 million+ suppliers across 190 countries, making it easier for companies to find and connect with suppliers.
  4. Better compliance: Streamline approval workflows and audit trails. This helps teams stay compliant with internal policies and external regulations.
  5. Integration with other SAP products: SAP Ariba integrates with other SAP products (SAP ERP), as well as third-party applications, helping companies improve data accuracy and make better decisions.

What Are The Drawbacks of SAP Ariba?

While there are many benefits to using SAP Ariba, there are also some drawbacks:


Online reviews report that the system can run slow, especially with a lot of integrations. Users also report that the dashboard could be more intuitive.


SAP Ariba is a complex platform with a variety of features, which can take users a bit of time to learn and adjust to the system's capabilities. A steeper learning curve leads to slower adoption.

Out-of-Network Vendors

Since SAP Ariba offers a massive network of suppliers, they somewhat expect you to use them. When you have a lot of vendors outside of the Ariba network, things can get complicated, especially since suppliers must pay fees to use the network after they reach a certain transaction volume.


While SAP Ariba is highly customizable, users may still find the need to hire extra help for full customization. This means a consultant, programmer, developer, etc., to advise and add code throughout the process.

Difficult Integrations

The system may not integrate seamlessly with other software apps you’re already using. The APIs provided are not scheduled within the Ariba process, and some companies must use middleware to send information back and forth. This could require additional money and labor to set up and maintain the integrations needed.

SAP Ariba Pros & Cons

SAP Ariba is always on shortlists for any enterprise procurement transformation. The choice of SAP Ariba or another vendor will often come down to:


  • Access to a global network: SAP Ariba has over 5 million suppliers across 190 countries, helping businesses connect and transact more easily.
  • Enhanced visibility: Real-time visibility into spend across the entire organization, allowing businesses to quickly identify and address issues.
  • Guided buying: Eases the employee requisition and purchasing process with a self-help portal.


  • Cost: SAP Ariba can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses.
  • Support: Some users have reported slow response times and difficulty getting the help they need post-deployment.
  • Complexity: SAP Ariba is a complex platform that can take a lot of time to learn.

Coupa: The Power of Business Spend Management

Coupa provides a web-based cloud environment to manage all interactions across payments, procurement, and supply chain planning. The system is designed for ease of use and helps companies organize all of their spend in one user interface. 

Coupa has a wide range of capabilities that help a brand automate procurement processes, improve visibility, optimize spend, and gain better control over its expenses.

The Coupa platform uses AI and machine learning (ML) to analyze spend patterns across its community of users and identify cost-saving opportunities. It also has a global network of suppliers, which companies use to connect with new vendors and streamline e-procurement processes. Coupa is used by a wide range of businesses, from mid-sized firms to large enterprises, across a variety of industries.

Features & Benefits of Coupa

Coupa is a source-to-pay suite designed to help businesses control and manage their expenses. Here are some of the common features and benefits of using Coupa:

Key Features

  • Procure-to-Pay (P2P): A complete P2P solution to optimize the procurement lifecycle, streamline purchasing, manage supplier relationships, and control expenses.
  • Expense Management: Automate expense reports, approvals, and reimbursements. Easily integrate with corporate credit cards and travel booking systems.
  • Supplier Management: Manage suppliers and vendors from a single platform, including onboarding, performance analysis, and contract management.
  • Invoicing: Automate the entire invoicing process, from invoice creation to receipt and approval. Provide real-time visibility into the status of an invoice and payment information.
  • Analytics: Analytics and reporting to help businesses monitor spend and identify areas for cost savings.

Top Benefits

  1. Efficiency: By automating manual processes, like invoicing and expense reporting, Coupa improves a company’s efficiency and productivity.
  2. Cost Savings: Coupa helps an organization control spend and identify opportunities to save money using real-time analytics and reporting.
  3. Visibility: The platform provides complete visibility into spend across an organization, allowing a company to make more informed decisions and quickly identify and address problems.
  4. Collaboration: Enables collaboration between different departments and stakeholders, like finance, procurement, and suppliers, to streamline processes and improve communication.
  5. Compliance: Helps businesses stay compliant with internal policies and external regulations by providing audit trails and enforcing approval workflows.

What Are The Drawbacks of Coupa?

While Coupa has many benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:


Coupa can get costly, especially for a small business. The pricing model is a subscription based on the number of users that will vary depending on the size of the business and the level of features required.


The Coupa platform offers so much, that sometimes usability gets complex. It takes time for users to become familiar with the capabilities, and the learning curve can be steep. This leads to slower employee adoption, especially for non-procurement users. 


Coupa may not integrate seamlessly with other software applications that a business is already using. This could require additional work to set up and maintain integrations.


Although Coupa typically discourages customization, some companies may feel the need to hire external consultants or developers to fully realize the potential of their implementation. 


While Coupa offers customer support, some user reviews report slow response times and difficulty getting the help they need.

Coupa Pros & Cons

When it comes to considering Coupa for a source-to-pay selection, it’s important to examine the pros and cons.


  • User-friendly - The system is designed to be intuitive despite its complexity, with a comparatively modern interface.
  • Improves spend control - Real-time analytics and reporting help a business improve spend management.
  • Cloud-based - Based in the cloud, not on-premise, so it is accessible from anywhere with wi-fi and a mobile device (iPhone or Android)


  • Limited vertical-specific functionality - Certain industries that are highly specialized may not find needed unique functionality in Coupa.
  • Integrations - Coupa may not seamlessly integrate with other apps that a business is already using, especially if Coupa offers a competing module.
  • Cost - The subscription model is on the pricey side and the company is known for being tough in negotiations.

Is BSM The Right Solution for Your Procurement Problems?

Business spend management, also called BSM, is a concept Coupa uses to explain its holistic approach to managing all third-party, non-payroll spend. 

There are many outdated concepts and strategies within BSM that will not help businesses compete on a global scale. Some of the top challenges faced include:

Size of the Business

BSM is not always a good solution for smaller companies that have simple procurement needs. It’s a comprehensive solution that requires multiple moving parts.

Slow Approval Process

Most employees wish to make purchases quickly and without bureaucracy. If you need something to do your job, the longer the wait, the slower productivity becomes. This also leads to a higher rate of employee dissatisfaction, and could even affect retention.

Evolving BSM

Although BSM is not always applicable in modern business, the good news is that strategies are evolving. BSM now incorporates new technologies like AI and machine learning (ML) to help companies better manage their spend and identify opportunities for savings. 

BSM solutions are also increasingly focused on promoting sustainability and improving supplier relationships, which are critical concerns for an organization of any size.

Intake-to-Procure: a Modern Way to Manage Business Spend

The best route of action is to take the entire procurement process into consideration, not sourcing and P2P sides. This also means capturing, managing, and automating from the initial request through to the payment creation, with a focus on enabling stakeholder collaboration. 

This process is typically referred to as intake to procure and involves several critical steps, including:

  1. Identifying the need for goods or services
  2. Submitting a request through the proper channels
  3. Obtaining approvals from the right parties
  4. Receiving quotes from suppliers
  5. Creating the purchase order

Intake-to-procure has been known to improve business spend management in many ways. It helps to increase efficiency by automating and streamlining the procurement process. This results in faster processing times with fewer errors. It also leads to greater visibility into procurement activities, allowing a business to better track spend across all verticals.

Intake-to-procure leads to improved compliance and ensures that all buying activities are conducted in accordance with company policies and regulatory requirements. It enables improved supplier relationships and allows organizations to more effectively engage with suppliers, leading to more favorable negotiated prices and terms.

Intake-to-procure is now an important component of business spend management that allows a business to better manage procurement activities and control costs. By automating and streamlining everything from intake to PO, companies achieve greater visibility, efficiency, compliance, and financial management.

Zip Intake to Procure: Bridging the Adoption Gap

Zip is an intake-to-procure solution that fills the gaps for Coupa and SAP Ariba. Companies choose Zip because it’s an effortless procurement front door for employees. Adoption is quick and easy, leaving little room for a steep learning curve or frustrated staff. It addresses the root cause of procurement, spend, compliance, and vendor management issues for all departments, from security and IT, to finance and legal.

Additionally, with Zip, there’s no need to hire expensive consultants or developers. Dynamic intake forms automatically route requests based on customized configurations. Control spend through an automated renewal workflow process and generate PRs and POs in one spot.

Whether you’re deciding between SAP Ariba or Coupa, the key takeaway is that adoption and scaling your procurement process is your ultimate goal. SAP Ariba is a solution built for complexity that works best for large, multinational companies, whereas Coupa is an end-to-end procurement suite built in the cloud for more generalized organizations in the mid-market or emerging enterprise segments. 

However, when it comes to employee adoption and cost, Zip is increasingly used to make deployment of SAP Ariba or Coupa more successful. Click here to see Zip in action.

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