Home 5 Companies Thriving on the Rise of Shadow IT

5 Companies Thriving on the Rise of Shadow IT

The read/write enterprise isn’t just about using social media in the enterprise – increasingly, it’s about employees actively choosing the technologies they use to get their jobs done instead of relying on decrees from on high about what sorts of technology to use. The term “Shadow IT” refers to “IT systems and IT solutions built and used inside organizations without organizational approval.” In the past few years, it’s gone from being cosidered a problem to being consider something to be embraced and learned from. Thanks to SaaS, entire companies have been built on Shadow IT decisions.

Salesforce.com got its start selling to sales departments who needed a solution that IT wasn’t having success providing. Now its a major player in enterprise. Here are five companies that are thriving in the shadows at enterprises large and small.


Yammer announced last week that it’s expanding from its narrow focus on microblogging into general enterprise social networking. That will bring the company into even deeper competition with established players like Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce.com and Jive.

David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, talked up the technology behind Yammer in a phone interview, but we think the company’s real differentiator is its freemium business model. Employees are signing up to use Yammer independent of IT and management, and that lets end users try the product before a purchasing decision is made.

“The freemium model is absolutely key to what we’re doing,” says Sacks. “When employees are given a choice of what to use, they are going to choose the product that is easiest to use, not necessarily the company that has the biggest sales team. We’re not afraid to let customers use the software first.”

Sacks is quick to point out that the company does work closely with IT once a company develops an interest in Yammer. “IT is usually the buyer, we do spend a lot of time with IT making sure they’re comfortable with the security and so on, but it’s employees that are driving it.”


Huddle, a SaaS project management and document collaboration solution (see our previous coverage), has landed large enterprise customers like Proctor and Gamble through shadow IT. “We generally don’t sell directly to IT,” says Huddle co-founder Andy McLoughlin. Instead, Huddle will sell directly to business users unsatisfied with what their IT department are offering them. “IT generally gives these companies or organizations some big system like Sharepoint that is too complex or not flexible enough for their needs.”

Another driving factor, McLoughlin notes is the need for external collaboration. Increasingly, employees are finding a need to work with people outside of their own companies and internally facing tools aren’t adequate for their needs.

McLoughlin says that although Huddle has occasionally been blocked because it’s been mistaken for a file sharing service or social network, the company hasn’t had much trouble with IT. “Push back has been decreasing over the past two or three years,” he says. He notes Proctor and Gamble has a policy of allowing its employees to use whatever tools they need to get their jobs done.


SurveyMonkey has proven that simple, single use tools can be extremely successful in the enterprise. SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg told us the company has 100% of the Fortune 100 and over 95 percent of the Fortune 500 as customers, but all of them signed up individually. “We don’t do group sales or work with purchasing or IT departments- we don’t have any sales people. So for us, this isn’t a trend, it is our whole business.”


We mentioned in our article on trends in idea management that UserVoice CEO Richard Whitemore has been seeing more enterprises using UserVoice as an internal tool instead of an externally facing one. Whitemore says this has been driven by largely by Shadow IT – business units are frequently unhappy with the larger idea management packages installed by IT or included as part of another system, and just want to quickly gather ideas from staff.


Forrester has described information workers as Google’s “trojan horse” into the enterprise, noting 39% have used tools such as Google Docs in the workplace. Google Apps adoption will likely be driven not by IT management, but by the rank and file who will want to use familiar technologies like Gmail and Google Docs.

Photo by
Hamed Parham

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.