Is Cloud CRM the future? The $48 billion says Yes


  • Over three quarters of $48 billion spent annually for CRM applications goes to cloud-based SaaS CRMs, according to Gartner.
  • SaaS CRMs are much more flexible without creating lockin – they can be customised risk-free to the processes and workflows of specific industries.
  • The ability for SaaS CRMs to scale and operate on OPEX costs makes them easy to deploy and manage, and affordable for operations of all sizes.
  • Cloud-based SaaS CRMs are typically platforms that offer many additional services such as machine learning, ad-hoc reporting and self-service portals for customers.


Cloud CRM is not only a very powerful business tool. It also delivers bespoke CRM services to specific verticals such as insurance or healthcare.

$193.6 billion was spent on enterprise applications during 2018, of which nearly a quarter – $48 billion – went to customer relationship management (CRM) software (Gartner). Out of that chunk, nearly three-quarters are being spent on SaaS (Software as a Service) CRM, that being software services that companies use on-demand as opposed to owned, on-premise systems.

This assumption is reinforced by the market leader. Salesforce, the giant of the SaaS world, holds a 19% market share, paling those by the more traditional CRM providers SAP (8.3%) and Oracle (5.5%). The latter two were overtaken by Salesforce in 2012, which has been blazing the trail ever since.


“If you asked ten years ago if the likes of Oracle or SAP would be dethroned, especially by software services challenging on-premise enterprise systems, few people would believe you,” said Sean Pyott, MD of thryve, a Salesforce partner. “But the advantages of a SaaS or cloud-based CRM are now very clear and even traditional vendors are investing heavily in delivering SaaS versions of their applications. The market likes SaaS for good reasons: it’s much more flexible, less risky and can be consumed as needed without heavy upfront CAPEX investment.”


Pyott added that this is a renaissance for the CRM market: “CRM was often treated as the black sheep of enterprise applications. It was seen as a pure sales tool, a glorified address book. But SaaS has expanded the potential of CRM applications.”


CRM as a service is not new. It is where the modern SaaS movement began, when engineers left Oracle to form Salesforce. This evolved to become a complete platform, offering development tools and marketplaces that improve project delivery for enterprise IT teams. As broadband and mobile devices became commonplace, CRM platforms shifted from their quiet corners to becoming central for many digital strategies.


The following factors underpin CRM’s rise to success:

  • SaaS CRM can be integrated with other company systems and customised without causing technical debt. This debt arises when a system is so customised that it becomes fragile and therefore difficult to replace or upgrade. SaaS CRM platforms don’t suffer from this problem as customisations do not impact the underlying system.


  • Leading from the first point, avoiding fragility means that a CRM can truly align to a specific vertical or use case. For example, insurance CRMs are becoming a powerful way for underwriters and brokers of all sizes to manage a wide range of insurance products and clients. They can support the appropriate processes and workflows required for different environments. No more shoehorning the business into the software’s capabilities. 


  • Customers can consume CRM services as needed. Upfront payments shrink dramatically, especially if no customisation or integration is required. This has enabled smaller organisations to afford modern CRM services.


  • SaaS platforms scale easily. A service covering a few people can comfortably expand to support thousands of people or entire organisations – and just as comfortably scale back of demand drops. This is a far cry from large immovable on-premise CRM systems.


  • Modern CRMs offer related services, such as creating customised marketing campaigns for specific customer groups or analysing trends using machine learning. SaaS CRM platforms can run many different applications, working seamlessly with the CRM’s core functions to creating a world of new marketing, analytics, reporting, customer service and strategic outlets.


“CRMs were so belittled because they never really met customer requirements,” said Riaan Bekker, Force Solutions Manager at thryve. “You had to bend the way the CRM could go, which meant it was never a master of any specific sector. The problem there is that different places have different customer requirements: the customer engagements for a retailer are different to that of an insurer. Today’s CRMs align with the processes and expected outcomes of a company.”

The platform-nature of SaaS CRMs allow them to do more than basic customer management. They open doors to process automation, customer self-service, AI-powered analytics, landing pages for lead collection… it’s a long list of possibilities.

SaaS CRM’s rising dominance in the enterprise application world is not a surprise, nor is Salesforce’s lead over the competition. With the bear’s share of $48 billion in spend and 20% growth, SaaS CRM is poised to become the application service every business can gain an advantage from. 


About thryve

thryve is a leading South African software company with international partners, providing cloud-based insurance administration, risk management systems and CRM systems to a blue-chip client profile of large South African corporates, insurers and insurance intermediaries. With offices in South Africa, Canada and the UK, we apply our local industry-expertise and world leading risk and insurance technology to deliver a solutions-driven approach to assessing, measuring and managing business risk. Boasting a 15-year proven track record, the thryve team of experts include a dynamic mix, all key to delivering a robust and reliable solution to our clients. Contact Us to find out more.