Boehringer Ingelheim

In an industry first, Boehringer Ingelheim automates testing of Veeva CRM

Company overview

Boehringer Ingelheim has implemented an innovative approach to automated testing to deliver updates to mission-critical software with higher quality and greater speed. In an industry first, a cross-functional team enabled the delivery of updates to its CRM platform through a continuous delivery pipeline – which the organization relies on to engage customers across the world.

With more than 52,000 employees worldwide and sales of over 20 billion Euro in 2021, Boehringer Ingelheim is a leading research-driven biopharmaceutical company. The organization’s focus on innovation in technology plays no small part in that success.

Recently, the IT team embarked on an ambitious project to implement fully automated software delivery so that new features could be delivered to business users – and value could be delivered to customers – in record time. One of the greatest challenges would prove to be automating testing for Veeva CRM, a business-critical system used by 20,000 Boehringer Ingelheim employees. Few in the industry have attempted to automate testing for a GxP regulated application.

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    Industry: Pharmaceutical
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    Organization size: 54,000 employees
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    Location: Global
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Balancing speed, quality, and compliance

Veeva CRM is one key to Boehringer Ingelheim’s business goals. The software is used to plan and execute customer engagement across the globe – and to do it in a consistent, compliant, and user-centric way. Data from CRM generates relevant customer insights, which in turn enable Boehringer Ingelheim to deliver life-saving innovation faster and more effectively.

“We are a highly data-driven industry,” says Bhawna Paul, IT M&S Customer Facing Excellence Head at Boehringer Ingelheim. “We listen to our customers because the more we know about what customers and patients experience, the more effectively we can meet their needs.”

Gaining these insights requires fast and flawless software delivery so that users are always working with the latest, most robust version that includes the features they need to get the job done.

As a pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim operates in a regulated environment, with compliance and data protection requirements. Meeting GxP standards – as well as the high internal standards set by Boehringer Ingelheim – requires rigorous testing to ensure systems are properly validated. And historically, this intensive testing seemed at odds with the team’s mission to deliver value faster. Before automating their testing process, it took a team of manual testers three to four days to complete testing before an update. So the team began researching what it would take to automate it. As they quickly discovered, it would be far from simple.

“Once you get deeper, you realize it requires data simulation, data access from many different sources, and application simulation for iPad in addition to the web app,” Utschig-Utschig said. It would also require testing complex use cases and collaboration across many external partners, including Veeva, Tricentis, Saucelabs, Automators, Capgemini, and msg.

The team knew this would require a new toolset and approach. “We needed a cutting-edge platform to maintain continuous delivery and allow our teams to focus on features and high-quality outcomes rather than worry about infrastructure.”

  • Arrow IconManual GxP testing took 3-4 days
  • Arrow IconComplex test automation use cases across multiple data sources and application types
  • Arrow IconBecause Veeva typically runs automated testing on customers’ behalf, accessibility IDs required for testing were not exposed

Charting new territory

A cross-functional team was brought together to look for possible solutions – and quickly came to the conclusion that Tricentis Tosca would be their best bet. Tosca, which was already being used in other areas of the business, would enable the team to automate the complex, end-to-end test cases that the project required, without having to write a line of code.

There was just one small problem: No other Veeva customer had ever attempted to automate Veeva testing themselves.

To begin, Boehringer Ingelheim created a task force of external partners and a broad cross-functional group including business stakeholders, IT business support specialists, and IT testing experts. Together, they made it happen.

“If you do something that nobody has done before, you need courage,” Utschig-Utschig says. “When pushing the envelope, you need the conviction that you will ultimately create more value from innovations like this. We always had that,” he says.

Without that kind of conviction, the project might have never made it off the ground. What started as a “normal” project quickly became monumental when the team realized that the software lacked the accessibility required to automate testing.

  • Arrow Icon45 GxP test cases automated for Veeva – an industry first
  • Arrow Icon84% time savings
  • Arrow IconImproved release confidence

After a number of calls to understand the initial issues, Veeva came up with a solution that would enable Boehringer Ingelheim to access the information they needed. Within weeks, Veeva conducted extensive performance testing to ensure no negative impacts to the software and exposed the accessibility IDs needed to make external automated testing possible. In addition to delivering this update quickly, Veeva also guided the project team through common use cases, which helped to ensure the test cases focused on what was most critical for end-users.

“As soon as Boehringer Ingelheim expressed their interest we jumped at the chance and paired BI directly with our engineering team to enable third-party automated testing,” says Veeva CRM General Manager Arno Sosna. “Now those third-party automation hooks are available for all Veeva customers who want to reduce their internal testing efforts and enable new Veeva CRM capabilities as quickly as possible.”

The Boehringer Ingelheim task force coordinated with a diverse team of specialists from various organizations, each of whom made a critical contribution to the project’s success. The Tricentis team helped ensure that Tosca test cases could be fully integrated into Boehringer Ingelheim’s global continuous delivery chain. Capgemini created 45 new automated test cases. Other critical contributions included:

  • SauceLabs provided a cloud-hosted mobile infrastructure for testing the Veeva iRep application. The infrastructure provided direct access to dedicated iPads for test creation and execution, as well as the recording of test assets required for compliance, across Boehringer Ingelheim’s distributed testing team.
  • msg assigned a Validation Manager to the project, who ensured user stories, tests, and other critical data were available in Jira, which was required for auditing and ensured all project stakeholders could stay up to date on test results, progress, and requirements coverage. The msg team also helped overcome integration issues to create robust, resilient test cases for both Veeva’s mobile and web applications that could be reused even as the underlying Veeva platform changed.
  • Automators created a regression portfolio in Tricentis Tosca consisting of web, mobile, and hybrid test cases. Working with testing experts from Tricentis, Saucelabs, and Boehringer Ingelheim, Automators significantly improved testing stability. By configuring wait times and synchronization, they were able to unify the behavior of different device types and ensure that fluctuations in system performance did not impact test execution.

Leading innovation in life sciences

Today, Boehringer Ingelheim has a software test environment that is unparalleled in the pharmaceutical industry. 45 CRM test cases run on it, covering the most complex GxP-relevant compliance requirements. These test cases are 100% automated and fully integrated into a global continuous delivery chain.

Testing that used to take eight people four days to complete can now be completed in five hours – an 84% time-savings – while still ensuring quality and compliance. Testing now offers consistent, high-quality data from tests that can be reproduced, as well as signature-ready reports that are automatically generated by the system for GxP compliance. And Boehringer Ingelheim can enjoy the fact that by automating testing of Veeva CRM, they have achieved an industry first that many others believed to be impossible.

According to Bhawna Paul, “The results not only boost our validation efforts; they raise our team’s confidence in the quality of our CRM solution.”

The next step for Boehringer Ingelheim will be to ensure the initial approach remains scalable, sustainable, and valuable long term. The task force will live on as a strong, cross-functional team, enabling Boehringer Ingelheim to continue on the path towards building an organizational culture of continuous delivery with high quality.

“This project was an important step for us,” Utschig-Utschig says. “The foundation for more value through innovation is laid. Now it is only up to us to continue this way in the future.”