Veeva Systems wants to give pharma reps 'Suggestions'

June 11, 2015
Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - July/August 2015,

New advisory capability for field reps will be built into Veeva's CRM

At Veeva’s Commercial Excellence Summit (Philadelphia; June 10-11), Veeva Systems gave its clients reviews and previews of new IT capabilities being built into its offerings, which now range from customer relationship management (CRM) for sales reps to enterprise-level document-management, master-data management and networking tools for pharma organizations. The most eyecatching announcement, though, is Veeva CRM Suggestions, a capability being built into CRM to synthesize diverse multichannel-communications data (for example, email communications and call-center activity) with customer demographic and business data. The CRM would then offer “suggestions” to the rep as to next activity when calling on a physician or healthcare manager. These messages would be delivered rapidly to reps in the field so that they can act on them in a timely manner.

Surprisingly, Veeva is offering this as a free upgrade to existing Veeva CRM clients, to be automatically included in this fall’s upgrade. (And, since Veeva pioneered a multitenant-based cloud CRM application for life sciences, it will be there for customers regardless.)

CRM Suggestions is based on a collaboration with two Veeva business partners: ZS Associates (see related news item) and Aktana (San Francisco). ZS is the well-known advisory firm on life sciences sales and business practices; Aktana is a data sciences-based decision-support developer for pharma. To an unclear degree, ZS and Aktana are shaping up as competitors and in some regards both of them are competitors (at least in some related areas of solutions offerings) with Veeva itself; but Veeva, through its tradition of inviting key technology providers into its partnering program, has lived with “coopetition” situations like this before. (Further muddying the waters, Aktana is a business partner with IMS Health/Cegedim, whose Mobile Intelligence CRM platform is Veeva’s direct competitor.)

David Ehrlich, CEO of Aktana, tells Pharmaceutical Commerce that its involvement with Veeva centers on VConnector 2.0, a decision-support tool that the company has built over the past five years in collaboration with several Big Pharma companies. To illustrate the value of VConnector, he gives the example of a formulary change at a health system that could affect a brand’s position with a certain prescriber. “Today, the rep would have to wait for his company to communicate the formulary change to him, then go into his account database to find out which physicians might be affected, and then to figure out which of them have a significant number of patients who could benefit from the formulary change. That could take days and hours of effort to derive; with VConnector, the analysis has been done and the result is a suggestion to visit that physician soon.”

This advisory capability has been touted in a range of healthcare applications, from support systems for evaluating drug research to giving physicians recommendations and reminders for therapy. Many in the data science field cite consumer activities like buying merchandise on Amazon, or selecting movies on Netflix, and those organizations’ ability to recommend next purchases. Ehrlich says that initial iterations of VConnector could only give approximate recommendations to reps, and “they tune out very quickly if the information is unhelpful,” he warns.

Matt Wallach, president of Veeva, notes that reps (as well as their sales managers) are overwhelmed with data coming out them; “The idea is to reduce that complexity to something that’s manageable and useful,” he says.

At the Commercial Excellence meeting, Veeva also introduced Veeva Align, for territory management, and Veeva Events, for managing meetings and engagements with groups; its master-data management tools have been rebranded as OpenData, and is now a compilation of prescribers in the US, China, Australia, France and the UK, with other countries coming online continuously.