Cushman Wakefield

CIO of real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield John McKeown said that the company's move towards a 'choose-your-own-device' mobile strategy was driven by information requirements rather than consumerisation trends - as he revealed the organisation was moving away from BlackBerry.

Speaking at research firm IDC's Consumerisation of IT and End-User Computing conference in London this morning, partner and CIO for the EMEA region McKeown said that as a 'people organisation’ with 15,000 employees in 60 countries, their business is about providing staff and clients with the right information so they can make decisions.

McKeown said that this is what Cushman & Wakefield called their 'Martini access' strategy, named after the 'anytime, any place, anywhere' adverts for the popular Italian vermouth drink in the 1980s.

"We used to have lots of silos of information but we wanted to be able to provide all of it to our staff and clients," he said.

"Our primary corporate mobile device was BlackBerry, which is probably the best mobile and email device in the world - but it doesn't necessarily fit all of our needs.

"We had 3,000 BlackBerry users globally - but we had to think about our platform and how it would fit in with the other tools we use.

"But the driver in the end wasn't consumerisation, but getting the business to use information on a device more effectively."

McKeown said that they although he did not want to be a CIO who was a victim of technology trends, the firm started off with a relatively small implementation, where employees could buy their own device and the IT department would supply the mobile device management tools.

"This was fine in the US," he said, "but we hit a roadblock in the UK and Europe since staff there expected us to supply the device for them. They weren't used to having to buy their own work phone."

Cushman & Wakefield are now supporting and buying Apple and Android devices, although McKeown said that as part of the CYOD policy they will only supply one brand of phone and one version of Android because of the fragmentation of the operating system.

McKeown, who has also worked in IT leadership roles at law firms Clifford Chance and Arthur Andersen, said that as well as adopting a mobile first strategy, which included redesigning the firm's website since 40-50% of their web traffic is from a mobile device, they also took the decision of moving much of their infrastructure to the cloud.

"We didn't want to spend a lot of money on capital infrastructure," he said while explaining their strategy of 'not owning stuff'.

"We wanted to be leaner and much more efficient which is why we pushed heavily to adopt cloud-based infrastructure."

McKeown's final advice was that it was the job of the CIO to "sell the change" to the organisation.

"It's important to drive the idea that it's not about the shiny new device, it's about the information you can access and share with it.

"And people choose their device based on productivity and not security. If you put too many guards in place, they will find their way around them and you really need to look back at why you implemented the strategy in the first instance."

McKeown also does not see a future where every application and task is performed and run by an all-encompassing tool.

"Ten years ago I might have thought otherwise," he said. "But I don't see this single-device future; we'll still have a multi-device environment."