Sales-force automation vendor races to pole position for sales teams deploying the iPad 2
At its annual users meeting (Philadelphia, May 10-11), Veeva Systems (Pleasanton, Ca) announced an upgraded version of iRep, which itself is only beginning to be deployed by pharma sales forces who have jumped on the iPad as a preferred presentation device. The one-on-top-of-the-other announcements are a testament both to the rapidity with which pharma sales managers are adapting the iPad 2, and to the urgency with which Veeva is trying to build a leadership position with its SFA tools.
“By focusing on the Apple platform, we are able to quickly take advantage of the new hardware features, such as FaceTime, and deliver valuable industry-specific capabilities to our customers,” stated Peter Gassner, CEO, adding that these capabilities “have the power to change the pharma sales and marketing model.”
iRep was announced several months ago as a combined customer-relationship management (CRM) and closed-loop marketing (CLM) system for reps. Presentation materials can be shown to customers with the effortless touch features of the iPad, while useful data on customer interactions are collected in the background. iRep 2 will make use of the new FaceTime functionality, which enables real-time live video chat, as well as plug-and-play projection and faster rendering of HTML5 content.
At its meeting, Veeva also announced an expanding partner network, including J. Knipper (Lakewood, NJ) for online sample-accountability systems and InTouch Solutions (Overland Park, KS), for developing iPad-compatible presentations. IT consultant Accenture is opening a “Veeva Competency Center” to help clients adopt the iRep technology. A dozen other IT or consulting vendors were exhibiting at the event to demonstrate their complementary SFA services.
iPad now and forever?
The concentration of iPad fans at the Veeva event could be expected, since the company has been promoting this platform for the past year. But even so, the enthusiasm bordered on a rock concert among audience members. One panelist representing a major pharma company noted that, having purchased 1,200 iPads less than a year ago, it was now purchasing an equal number of iPad 2s to replace them, saying that the sales force demanded it and the company wanted to remain on the leading edge of SFA functionality. At the same time, cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) are becoming the dominant platform for SFA; Veeva says that 100% of the SFA projects it bid on in the past year were SaaS-based, indicating that the pharma industry has overcome its hesitations about this form of shared computing.
Veeva had positioned itself as being hardware-independent, as befits a company that also promotes its stake in cloud computing, and there is a Blackberry version of Veeva’s SFA tools in the works. But the question can legitimately be asked whether the iPad is moving into an exclusive position for pharma SFA, leaving other touch tablet vendors on the outside.