Welcome to the journey of a lifetime; the essential pilgrimage for all medical writers. Today, we traverse the world of Veeva, the approval software that all external medical communications materials must pass through before seeing the light of day.

So join me, your faithful guide, as we make our way through the twists and turns of Veeva…


1. Prepare to enter the realm of Veeva

Before we venture off, we need to make sure we have the right equipment for the job. For this journey we will need one expertly crafted document in its final state, be it a PowerPoint presentation, an invite for a meeting, a poster, or any other external medical communications piece of your choice. To accompany your document you will also require a complete and marked-up reference pack. Pop these in your backpack, you will need them shortly.

We are now ready to enter the Veeva portal. Login using your credentials at Veeva Vault, but take care adventurer, three wrong attempts and you are locked out forever! (Ok, not forever, but until you can contact the Veeva elves to unlock your account…which can feel like forever and is irksome for your client).

A successful passage takes you to the home screen where you are greeted with a busy scene of documents making their way through the review process.

2. Locate the job bag

Now we must locate where to deliver the document (the “job bag”).

If there is a job code on the front page of your document, simply type the job code into the search bar at the top of the home screen and you will be taken to your job bag. Jump to step 3.

If your job code is in placeholder format on your document, we will have to summon a job code. Click ‘Create’ > ‘Placeholder’ in the top right corner of the screen. (Note: Not all Veeva platforms have this capability, and your client may be sitting on the golden egg of permissions for this function – if that is the case you will have to ask them to create a job bag for you).

Once you are in the placeholder creation lobby, follow the steps, making sure to complete filling in the yellow mandatory boxes of information. Name your job bag according to the style used for other job bags (you can have a quick search of the library to find this out) and press ‘save’. Your job bag, and the all-important job code will be created. Replace the job code placeholder on your document with the new job code and continue on your journey.

3. Deposit the document

Once in the corresponding job bag to your job code, simply press ‘Upload File’. Locate the file within your documents and press ‘Upload’. Your document will be safely delivered to the job bag.

Tip 1: Your document cannot be deleted once uploaded – subsequent uploads are placed on top so ensure firstly that the correct document is selected and secondly that it has been cleaned of any comments as they will be laid bare for all to see.

Book of Spells

4. The meaning of Veeva

You hear clattering in the distance, a chainsaw starts up, the door slams shut behind you… you’re trapped within the job bag! A menacing voice bellows ‘to escape the job bag, you must link each statement with a citation number to its corresponding reference’. Panic sets in (especially if the document is 52 pages long…), but never fear, you have the right tools and skills for the job. Retrieve your reference pack from your backpack and follow the steps below.

a)      Locate the first statement in the document that has a citation number

b)     Consult the reference list/footers to find the reference associated with that citation number

c)      Open the corresponding reference in your reference pack

d)     Find the mark up that supports the cited statement

e)     In the job bag, click the speech-bubble-with-a-plus icon (furthest left button) to open the annotations bar, click the ‘Select annotation tool’ drop down (furthest right button of the annotations bar) and select the link option (it looks like a chain)

f)       Within the job bag, highlight the cited statement in the document using the link function and release

g)      A secret candlelit library of references will appear. Type in the author and year of your reference and the paper should be listed (if not, try the title of the reference instead), click the blue ‘Select or create new anchor in this document’ option and the online pdf will open

a.      Still no luck in finding your reference? The reference will need to be uploaded to the library by your client or yourself using ‘Create’ > ‘Upload’ but make sure all the mark-ups have been removed from the pdf before uploading, you don’t want to wake the angry Veeva librarian trolls!

h)     Locate the statement in the online pdf (using your reference pack as a guide) and highlight using the cursor, which is still active ready to link. Upon releasing the highlight, a box will appear indicating an ‘anchor’ has been made to the pdf. Name your ‘anchor’ (it is generally something to describe the data selected such as ‘baseline characteristics’ but do check the style used in other references first to find the preference) and press done at the top right of the pdf page. As if by magic, your first link is created!

a.      Note: once an anchor is created, it cannot be deleted or renamed. If an anchor is already present in the pdf on the information you wish to use, simply press the green plus icon on that anchor and it will add to your document just as if you were to highlight it from scratch.

i)       Repeat steps A–H for every citation in your document

Tip 2: If you have multiple citations per statement e.g ‘The sky is blue1–4’ you can stack the annotations neatly rather than having multiple single references linked to one statement. Once you have created your first link, click the three dots on the link box, click ‘Edit links’ and the reference library will open again (Step g.) allowing you to add more links to the stack.

Book of Spells

5. Pass through the review door

Congratulations, you made it to the end of your document! The door to exit the job bag is just ahead! But first, a few final checks!

  • Click the filter button to ensure there are no page level references, if there are use the move function on each link (found in the 3 dots icon) to re-link it to the correct text; make sure to press the tick button on your suggested move for it to stick
  • Ensure all attachments are present and correct (‘Document Files’ [page icon] on the right pane > ‘Attachments’) – this where you should upload any files accompanying the main document but that are not to be approved, such as unpublished references like marked-up website pages if they are not permitted in the main library, emails to state offline review has been performed, data on file, a highlighted version of the document showing the changes made from a previous version etc.
  • Add any comments to reviewers using the ’Comment’ function in the ‘Select annotation tool’ drop down menu

When you are confident your document is ready, press ‘Complete’ to send the document to review and await your fate.

6. So close, yet so far

Oh how naïve you were to think you had escaped the job bag for good! Now you are faced with a chessboard of comments from the high elves and wizards (medical, legal and marketing reviewers). Your document may have passed the first stage and is ‘Approved with changes’ or it may have not been up to their satisfaction and has descended to the dungeon of ‘Revise and resubmit’.

Open the document saved on your computer and prepare for battle by up-versioning. Tackle each reviewer comment one by one – you can use the arrow buttons on the top right of the job bag to work through each comment individually to ensure you don’t miss any (or hell hath no mercy). Apply the amends to your offline up-versioned document and reply to the Veeva comments as appropriate, i.e. ‘actioned’.

You can also click ‘resolve’ on the reviewer comments, but beware, resolved comments often do not pull through…see the next step for the meaning of this.


7. The room of enchantment

When it is time to reupload your document to see if this time you can escape the job bag for good, press ‘Upload New Version’ (upwards arrow icon, top right of the job bag). As before your file library will open. Locate the updated file and press ‘Upload’, your revised document will appear.

Your pulse quickens, your hands go clammy and sweat drips from your brow as you notice you now have 0 annotations on your document. DO. NOT. PANIC. There’s a button for that.

Head to the ‘Bring forward annotations’ button on the annotations pane (arrow pointing towards a line icon) – cast the spell by pressing ‘Continue’ and your annotations will magically be brought forward to exactly where they were before.

Tip 3: If the updated document has a different number of slides to the original reviewed document, click the ‘Advanced’ drop-down menu in the ‘Bring forward annotations’ pop-up box. Insert the slide number of the slides removed or added since the previous version (Note: the number of the slide not the number of slides, i.e. slides 3,7,10 have been added since the prior version). When you pull through the annotations, Veeva will factor in these slides and return the annotations to their correct places

Book of Spells

Conduct your final checks (Step 5) then press ‘Complete’ and wait with bated breath.

8. Your destiny

The door slowly creaks open, light fills the dusty room, you squint as you feel the fresh air fill your lungs – you have made it, freedom from the job bag! Many congratulations, your document is approved and can be shown to the world! As you revel in your glory, keep in mind those who are less fortunate and have to return to Step 6 for unlimited rounds of review and amends before they can emerge, unrecognisable from when they first entered the realm of Veeva.

Best wishes for living happily ever after,


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