Best Practices for Veeva Vault Software Upgrades & Release Management

June 19, 2023

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Across biotech startups and global pharmaceutical companies alike, Veeva Vault continues to expand market share. With 1,300+ customers, Veeva Systems is one of the largest providers of cloud solutions for the life sciences industry. At the heart of its Research & Development (R&D) solutions is the Veeva Vault Platform, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that enables unified management of processes from early drug development to post-marketing stages.

Whether you're interested in Veeva Vault or already implementing it, it's important to consider what happens after you reach go-live. With a successful implementation, process bottlenecks are eliminated, and time efficiencies are gained. As your business grows, however, your functional groups' needs will change. Furthermore, both industry and regulatory standards are continuously evolving. Maintaining user adoption and technical proficiency requires continuous improvement.

How will Veeva keep its software current? How will you leverage Veeva's innovation to your organization's advantage? In this post, we will deep dive into Veeva's upgrade methodology and identify considerations for your company's Vault release management.

Understanding Veeva Vault Upgrade and Release Cycles

Veeva has a defined, regular upgrade cycle for its platform and applications. The timing that you receive features depends on whether you have a General Release or Limited Release Vault.

In every upgrade, Veeva includes customer feature requests, functionalities aligned with Veeva's long-term roadmap, and bug fixes. While some enhancements are auto-enabled (mandatory), others are elective and require a system administrator to set up. Data model changes are often included to support evolving needs and new features.

General Release

General Release Vaults receive significant product enhancements three times a year, with each release designated by its year and chronological version (this year's releases will be 23R1, 23R2, and 23R3). Releases typically occur around April, August, and December, and are communicated six weeks in advance.

Veeva's general and limited upgrades are scheduled for Friday evenings (Pacific Standard Time), minimizing disruption to users' day-to-day work. Before 2023, production Vault downtimes lasted as long as six hours, but recent enhancements have reduced this duration to as low as 30 minutes.

Limited Release

Limited Release Vaults receive the same product enhancements except in smaller batches every 3 to 5 weeks. Limited Releases are communicated one week in advance. Unlike General Releases, Limited Releases are not validated. We find that nearly all customers' production environments are General Release, but sandboxes may be Limited Release.

Maintenance Release (Hotfix)

When issues occur in production Vaults, customers cannot always wait until a General or Limited release to resolve it. For this purpose, Veeva conducts maintenance releases (also known as "hotfixes") to address bugs as soon as possible. These are not scheduled at set times, but customers are typically given 24 hours' notice that there will be a short service disruption. A comprehensive list of fixes is made available on Vault Help. Some examples of fixed defects include:

  • Application-specific functionality not working as expected
  • Security updates
  • Unexplained server error
  • User interface (UI) glitch

Your Vault will receive hotfixes regardless of being General Release or Limited Release.

Preparing Your Organization for Veeva Vault Upgrades

Veeva offers multiple self-service resources for your organization to stay informed on releases.

Risk Impact Assessment

Every release, Veeva generates a Risk Impact Assessment (RIA) that documents new capabilities across all Vault products. This assessment provides a feature description, Veeva-determined GxP Risk, as well as information about the feature's enablement and visibility. This document is available on Vault Help, Veeva's self-service information hub.

Because the RIA is geared towards all Vault customers, some sections may not be relevant for your organization. We advise customers to use this document as a baseline and expand upon it in accordance with company-specific guidelines.

Pre-Release Vault

Approximately four weeks prior to a Veeva Vault Release, your system administrator can create a copy of your current Vault based on the configuration of the upcoming release. This is called a Pre-Release Vault. Because this environment closely mirrors your existing production Vault, this is an optimal tool for assessing validation impact of new features and ensuring that the new version doesn't deleteriously impact previously implemented customizations or workflows. You may also explore configuration/administrator-enabled enhancements and determine whether to implement them for your continuous improvement strategy.

Veeva Connect

Veeva Connect is Veeva's online customer community. This forum enables customers to connect not only with Veeva's product team directly, but also other life science professionals. You can join product-specific communities to watch release webinars, discuss best practices, and learn about solutions used by other customers in the field. For example, if your organization has implemented the full Veeva RIM Suite, we recommend joining the RIM Publishing, Registrations, and Submissions/Submissions Archive groups.

Lastly, Veeva sends release communications to subscribed users. This can be set up in your Vault by opting into Product Announcements under each desired user's profile. You may also enable Service Availability Notifications to receive information on maintenance releases.

Recommendations & Best Practices

To prepare your organization for Vault upgrades, here are our top 5 recommendations:

  1. Review the Risk Impact Assessment. Although Veeva Vault provides a general RIA, it is not tailored to your organization's policies, Vault configuration, or system usage. We recommend downloading a copy of the RIA and applying your own risk criteria based on the application features relevant to you. An independent determination will help gauge the breadth of validation activities necessary for your organization.
  2. Leverage Pre-Release Vaults. Pre-Release Vaults allow you to preview upcoming features and ensure Vault satisfactorily meets your systems requirements. Veeva does not adjust its release schedule for individual customers, so we strongly encourage you to use the pre-release period to complete validation activities in advance. We recommend prioritizing auto-on changes foremost, as there may be regression testing required. Configuration and admin-enabled features are elective and can be prioritized after completing assessment of auto-on enhancements.
  3. Update Internal Veeva-Related Documentation. In addition to new functionality, UI updates are common in Vault releases. Review your SOPs, Job Aids, and training materials to verify that processes and visual elements remain accurate.
  4. Create a Post-Release Enablement Plan. Configurable and admin-enabled enhancements may not be required, but they can provide exceptional value and help your organization fully leverage the Vault Platform. Ensure that your organization outlines a plan for assessment and implementation of new features.
  5. Sign Up for Veeva Connect. Veeva Connect not only ensures you gain access to release materials, but by participating directly in the community, you can raise product concerns and get Veeva visibility.

With a defined Veeva Vault Release Management Plan, your organization is well-positioned to assess the health of your Vault(s) and determine if there is potential for optimization. However, release management can be complicated and may require expert guidance. ProPharma's R&D Technology team comprises experienced consultants who can help you assess risk impact, optimize your current Veeva Vault systems, and maximize your investment of Veeva Vault solutions. If you are interested in partnering with ProPharma to drive your digital transformation, learn more about our Veeva Vault Support, Training, and Software Implementation Services.


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