December 10, 2013

Risk: The Precursor to Innovation

Without risk, breakthrough innovation wouldn’t be possible. Companies don’t generally become industry leaders by doing the same thing over and over again until they’ve perfected a process. To be truly innovative, CIOs need to embrace risk-taking as part of their everyday lives, and understand when it’s most appropriate.

CIO recently featured a story revolving around brokerage firm TradeMonster and its CTO Sanjib Sahoo’s efforts to make the company more competitive in the mobile application space. Up until this year, the company had a dated, clunky mobile app that wasn’t compatible with tablets. As a result, the company lost a number of prospects to competitors with more compelling mobile offerings.

To address this issue, Sahoo took a potentially less costly but far riskier approach. He and his team developed a single app for multiple platforms using HTML5 instead of developing native applications for each mobile platform. Most mobile applications are usually built for a specific platform, like iOS or Android. HTML5 offers the ability to develop one application that is compatible with all mobile platforms. Some of HTML5’s high-profile failures, however, like Facebook’s disastrous HTML5 apps have left a cloud of doubt over HTML5’s viability to power cross-platform mobile apps. Rob Grossberg at ReadWriteWeb covered the bumpy trajectory of HTML5 in a recent article.

For TradeMonster at least, the risk seems to have paid off. Sahoo is happy with the results, although he admitted he had his doubts: “My initial reaction was that it may not work. But it was disruptive, and I knew we had the business case for it.”

Another example where HTML5 can spur innovation is the increasing popularity of connected cars. With more consumers demanding similar experiences in their cars as they receive on their mobile devices, automakers and developers need to quickly develop compatible applications. Ford and GM have both demonstrated a keen interest in employing HTML5 given its cost-effective and timesaving nature.

Sometimes the best choice isn’t the most obvious one, but by listening to consumer needs and anticipating the need for native controls, you should be able to determine what risks are worth taking. Applications built using HTML5 may not necessarily be right for everyone, but it’s up to you to determine what will move your company forward.