Veeva Systems (VEEV -1.55%) is a textbook example of software-as-a-service (SaaS) success. When Peter Gassner was an executive at Salesforce, he realized drug companies had very specific cloud-computing needs that weren't being met.

Galvanized by this knowledge, he founded Veeva in 2007 to provide tools to address those needs. The rest, as they say, is history: Veeva stock is up more than 550% over the past five years and it has made billions of dollars for investors.

If you're wondering where the company -- and its stock -- might be in May 2022, there are three themes to keep an eye on.

Two medical professionals holding a tablet with medical technology icons coming out of it.

Image source: Getty Images.

New segment supercharging growth

Veeva got its start by offering customer relationship management (CRM) tools. The sales force of a drug company could use Veeva CRM to track client accounts and spending.

In 2014, the company came out with Veeva Vault, which provides a dizzying number of tools drug companies can buy. Suffice it to say that these services help companies bring a drug from the idea stage through clinical trials and all the way to market.

As you can see, Vault has been a huge success.

Chart showing revenue by segment at Veeva

Data source: SEC filings. Chart by author. 

But about a year ago, management began detailing an entirely new line of business, a next-generation data warehouse that gives customers access to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Drug companies can store and analyze their prescription, sales, and claims data all in one place. The service is called "Veeva Nitro."

It will likely take Nitro longer than Vault to catch on with drug companies. That's because many of the bigger industry players already have data warehouses installed, and Veeva will be able to capture them only when they want to upgrade.

That said, CFO Tim Cabral has said that Nitro "will be a material revenue contributor in a few years from now." Investors should continue to listen in on conference calls, as progress in Nitro could lead to even bigger gains in the future for Veeva stock.

Expanding beyond life sciences

Veeva's solutions have won rave reviews. That success created an interesting opportunity: Companies outside of life sciences (another word for pharmaceuticals) began asking Veeva if it had a solution for their industries. Specifically, these requests were coming from heavily regulated industries like chemicals, consumer packaged goods, and cosmetics.

In response, Veeva released QualityOne -- a hybrid product that lets companies track documents, monitor training, and do many other things from a single cloud interface.

Management has kept results largely to itself, offering up only that there are several early adopters. It revealed that the total number of QualityOne customers doubled in 2018 -- though we aren't entirely sure of the base it doubled from.

My guess is that by 2022, if QualityOne is anywhere near as successful as CRM and Vault were for Veeva, it will be moving the needle meaningfully. Results will likely be broken out for the segment, and I wouldn't be surprised if such offerings were being marketed toward even more regulated industries.

The unknown unknowns

But perhaps the biggest driver of Veeva's results over the next three years will be...something that neither you nor I could foretell. A lot can happen in three years, and to think that we can predict what those things are with any semblance of precision is unwise.

Several factors could hurt Veeva. The stock market -- and the economy -- could tank. Veeva's cloud could be compromised, resulting in data going missing. Competition could heat up meaningfully.

On the other hand, we might be pleasantly surprised. There could be an as-yet-unknown tool that booms in popularity. The company could get bought out. Nobody knows. This might seem like a cop-out, but I think it's an important realization. As a Veeva shareholder myself, I need to embrace the fact that the future is unknown. I'm comforted by the facts that Veeva has a net cash position of over $1 billion and that it created free cash flows of $300 million last year. That should give it a nice cushion should times get tough.

In the end, I'm willing to accept that uncertainty. Over the next three years, my eyes will be trained on Nitro, QualityOne, and the host of variables I don't yet know about. Yours should be, too.