Veeva Commercial Summit '23: The power of connectivity

Sales & Marketing
Veeva Commercial Summit 2023

Veeva Systems’ Commercial Summit returned to Madrid for 2023, with over 1,500 life sciences industry professionals in attendance. Once more located at the Madrid Auditorium Hotel, the day kicked off with an opening keynote by Veeva’s President of Europe, Chris Moore. This year’s focus? Next-Generation Commercial.

Where are the patients? Where are a company’s KOLs and HCPs? How should engagement be conducted? What is the right message and how can learning and improvement be achieved? Veeva sought to address all these questions and more.

Two-thirds of physicians will speak to two-thirds or less of the organisations that were in attendance at the Summit. If content is involved, it drives and improves patient starts by two and a half times, Moore said, and if MSLs are involved early, that increases further. It is a battle, certainly – to be heard, the fight for relevance, and to deliver content in the most timely and convenient way to the HCPs desired to be interacted with. Connection is key, bringing the insights across from R&D into the commercial sphere. 

A life sciences cloud to advance commercialisation of medicines

For those unaware, Veeva Systems delivers the industry cloud for life sciences. The company simply lives and breathes life sciences. Paul Shawah, EVP of commercial strategy at Veeva, took to the stage next. Picking up on Moore’s spotlight of the different countries represented by attendees – from over 160 life sciences companies – all have a common goal, he said: how to use tech to advance how medicines are commercialised. 

And that is the fundamental operation upon which Veeva is founded and functions. With over 20 products in Commercial and also over 20 products in R&D, that won’t change – indeed, there are now three major product additions to the portfolio: one new data and two new software products. Framed with a lens of strategy and the path ahead, when they think about their products, they think about the customer focus – that of the healthcare professional and, by extension, the patient. 

From trial to treatment, the complex, iterative, and independent journey should inform at each stage along the way, Shawah says. Within the commercial side, understanding the unmet needs and patient populations should inform the development of a portfolio and the investment made in drug development. To this end, he said, Veeva exists to aid efficiency in, again, a connected fashion.

Clinical operations, clinical data, regulatory, drug safety, quality, sales, medical, and marketing – there is connectivity across all these areas. As the industry cloud for life sciences, Veeva categorises its products across three areas: the Development Cloud, the Commercial Cloud, and the Data Cloud. This is accompanied at all times by business consulting. 

The Development Cloud is on the R&D side, but Shawah walked delegates through it anyway. It is situated across the Vault Platform. This permits innovation in any direction, lending a flexibility that allows applications to work together and be natively integrated. The vast majority in the audience have one or more Development Cloud application in operation in their companies, Shawah said. In fact, there are over 3,000 production vaults in use today, up to 500,000 users using the system each day, with over 3 million users in total. This permits, he said, commercial innovation.

The technology foundation for commercial innovation is the Veeva Commercial Cloud Vision, which builds the core capabilities, so companies don’t need to worry about them. Turning on new innovation as new capabilities are turned on three times a year is, Shawah said, simple and facilitates easy expansion and innovation. Unique processes specific to each business will remain, of course, but this vision is being unlocked by moving to the Vault platform.

Three new innovations to come: outbound and inbound excellence

Marketing automation is being released next year, and the date will be announced at Veeva’s US summit. Another area of non-traditionally direct engagement has been on the patient side, and so they are going to be doing patient CRM, also. A significant addition to the product portfolio, it will be a US-focused product in the beginning, with the unique requirements that exist in the US market, but it will permit everyone in a company who needs to interact with a patient and their sensitive data to do so. Veeva will, with the patient CRM, help with that interaction, in terms especially of compliance and appropriate sensitivity. Again, this will be coming next year, with its release date to be announced.

Thus, bringing together all these pieces, a more complete view is developed around the customer – the HCPs, but also ultimately the patients, Shawah explained. With coordination across the groups, Veeva’s foundations aid engagement with customers in the most efficient way, aka outbound excellence. However, Shawah also mentioned the importance of inbound excellence: you can reach your customer and who you want to reach, but you need to permit the customer to reach you on their terms also. Veeva began this inbound journey a couple of years – a mere hypothesis then – and now it has become a reality. As mentioned in the Pulse Field Trend Report, HCPs are reaching out a third of the time, proving the hypothesis. When that inbound engagement happens, there is - 90% of the time - a response by the field team in less than five minutes, Shawah noted.

However, Shawah sees CRM as one of the biggest pieces in executing the wider vision. Moving Veeva CRM to Vault, one of the core investment policies is to preserve the original investment as much as possible and carry it over to Vault. Veeva wants its customers to focus on moving forwards and not worrying about rebuilding work done. With Vault CRM, they think about full functionality – everything built over the past 15 years available on day one, with no going backwards. Indeed, a lot of progress is being made in Vault CRM, with the first customer now live and delivering Next-Generation CRM. Some others have signed on, but are not yet live: these are new customers, new companies. But as pertains to existing customers, there are two top 20 pharma companies globally now committed to Vault CRM: GSK and Bayer. 

Speaker at Veeva Commercial Summit 2023

GSK and Bayer and Veeva’s Vault CRM

GSK’s Kieron Scrutton, SVP commercial and medical, digital & technology, and Alexander Alex, head of CRM and engagement channels at Bayer, came onto the stage, and Scrutton explained that, from a GSK point of view, CRM in life sciences is now a solved problem. In Veeva, GSK has a partner that gives consistency and reliability in an underlying CRM platform. Alex, meanwhile, told how one year ago, Veeva sent Bayer on a journey, ticking boxes, and the company honoured the stability and constancy of their own platform. Being also a Vault platform customer in clinical and R&D, it took those factors and made a decision to move towards CRM, as well. 

Bayer has also made a commitment to OpenData, as data is the foundation for everything it does, and CRM is unusable without data, but that data has to be trustful. Already using OpenData in various markets, they now want to move towards one customer master and reduce complexities in their set-up.

GSK, meanwhile, Scrutton said, had to decide whether it wanted to stay where it was for the next five years, join with Veeva and keep evergreen, or start again – needless to say, they went with the second option. On the assumption that many people in the room will also use the second option, the next step is to get in touch with the account team and understand, step-wise, the process, Scrutton urged.

Case Study: GSK and Bayer

There is always an excitement around Veeva’s Summits and this year was no different, but it was especially of interest for delegates to hear about the GSK and Bayer news. So, it was no surprise that both Scrutton and Alex were later interviewed more in-depth, permitting them to elaborate on the companies’ decision. Scrutton noted the considerable breadth of use the Veeva Platform provides, that, in addition to the depth of relationship the system permits and the continual process of collaboration. 

Alex also mentioned the realities of a not-always-smooth journey, but one that, due to questioning, resulted in a smooth process of engagement. Trial and error are done not only by life sciences companies, in proving hypotheses, but Veeva is, in a way, taking a chair in the risk also, he said.

The same vision and priorities, then; another driver behind the decision was stability.  Stability, indeed, is core, Alex said. One year ago, even, no one wanted to change. There was a fear involved. Now, however, Veeva has to prove that the companies took the right strategic decision to go with change.

“It’s about having a partner who understands life sciences,” Scrutton said. “It matters that the realities of what the field force and MSLs have to do on a daily basis is understood.”

Scrutton added that the ability to have a platform that will facilitate greater implementation of AI in the future will also be of great use.

Data, software, and the importance of connection

Data Cloud is another big piece, Shawah continued once Scrutton and Alex left the stage. And so, Kilian Weiss, GM of Veeva Data Cloud, came onto the stage. He began by saying that apps like Netflix and LinkedIn work, and this similar functionality is what is wanted in business lives: data embedded in workflows, and AI that just simply works. Twenty years ago, it couldn’t work, data was disconnected, and so, too, was software; over the past two decades, though, software has been cleaned up and is now working seamlessly in the cloud. However, data is still disconnected and not fitting together – yet. 

The goal is to clean it up, therefore, and Veeva Data Cloud is the modern data platform for life sciences, Weiss says. Astellas is one company live with OpenData Commercial, now, and Bayer, also. This includes Veeva Link, which is deep data – in the process of expanding. It offers key people, key accounts, medical insights, scientific awareness, and workflow – and, additionally, Compass, which is transaction data and only available in the US. 

Case Study: Astellas 

As a use case, members of the press (including pharmaphorum) were later  permitted a roundtable with Astellas’ SVP head of medical affairs for Europe, Canada, and Israel, Alan McDougall, who talked through how Veeva Link literally provided a link for finding the right people for engagement. 

Earlier in the day, Ian Cornish, associate director of data platforms at Astellas, had spoken of the company’s overall rationale for implementing change and noted that they wanted a single source of truth for their customers. Implementing Veeva Network and OpenData, live in 29 markets across Europe and internationally, Cornish told how the time it takes from adding a customer into the CRM and then engagement consent with marketing had dropped to less than five hours from five days previously. With Link, Cornish noted, Link Key People drives the whole launch acceleration process as well.

Formed in 2005 from the merger of two Japanese companies that wanted to be seen as truly global, Astellas inherited a legacy of a solid organ transplantation gold-standard immunosuppressant, as well as specialism in men’s urology, including enlarged prostate and overactive bladder, and a long-standing prostate cancer drug. It later broadened out into prostate metastisation, and, more recently, has been working on bladder cancer and gastroesophageal cancer that has spread. Indeed, Astellas seeks to plant a footprint as a true oncology company. Nonetheless, it has also begun a programme in macular degeneration (MD), looking into retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE) and geographic atrophy (GA) and, separately, single gene therapy, with a production facility based in North Carolina, USA.

It is the shift into MD, in particular, which prompted the company to consider Veeva Link. What its implementation permitted was elimination of irrelevant information and ease of use. For those not in the pharma industry, medical affairs are often described as a third strategic pillar to accompany medical and commercial. The job of medical affairs, indeed, is to speak with customers before launch, as it is illegal for sales to become involved before licensing. Medical affairs engages with customers and works to understand how patients are treated in a hospital, in a region; the true value is understood. In this way, it understands the external environment, generates late-stage data, and then communicates that data in a translatable fashion.

Now, Veeva Pulse permits a whole new category of data, Weiss said. Anonymised data, it provides accurate metrics around access, cause, and digital affinity. Imagine, he said, field teams and analytics engines having access to this data around the world – it is very fast and outcomes are already being seen; new HCPs and, by extension, new patients are being identified, growth is accelerating launch, and there is an increase in sales of more than 5% across multiple AV tests. A very exciting new category of data, indeed, and it will be available by the close of 2024. 

There is, then, a lot of innovation around Veeva’s data products, connected by a common data architecture, which is foundational to the Data Cloud. Connecting entities, accounts, people, hospitals, and so on – the focus remains connection, commercial connectivity.

In short, the industry cloud is becoming a reality: data and software and services all together.