Work in IT leadership? Want a stretch target for 2017 and beyond into the mythical lands of your “2020 Vision”? why not try #noPC.

I spend quite a proportion of my working life talking with people at various levels of management in the world of Information Technology. Many (if not the majority) are very enlightened. But I’ve yet to hear any of them talk about the end of the laptop/desktop/mouse/keyboard paradigm of computing in the enterprise. “Cloud first, mobile first” was the slightly tautological strapline from Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, but that was then followed with a concerted move into creating devices that were maybe mobile but certainly not mobiles. That strapline seems to have been adopted by Enterprise IT, but that does nothing to signal a change for the way in which technology in businesses is fundamentally delivered.

I was chatting with a CIO from a local authority yesterday who talked with great disappointment that when talking recently with peers he would hear most talking about their innovation agenda being to move to Office 365, Azure and maybe Microsoft Surface devices. Whilst undoubtedly that marks a step change in the acceptance of public cloud, it would have been an innovative adoption seven years ago. That’s extremely material because seven years is a reasonable period for the entire lifetime of a successful new technology product category these days. I’m not saying that any of the Microsoft products are necessarily obsolete, just that seven years to accept a new wave of technology just won’t cut it today. IT continues to not accept the reality of the consumerised world around it, and that makes it increasingly irrelevant and bypassed.

So here’s a stretch target that should be on the CIO agenda – #noPC. In the same way that Bill Gates set the inspiring vision for a PC on every desk and in every home, we should now look to enterprise IT to make the PC (or Mac) irrelevant. That PCs by 2020 should be regarded as we regard Fax today. Something that was ubiquitous but then, seemingly all of a sudden, disappeared.

#noPC is not the same as mobile first. I think we are about to see real diversity of device types as the interfaces to the information and processes that we need to access today and going forward. It might be the 5″ screen of a smartphone, but equally it might be the microphone of a smart assistant, the sensor in the air conditioner, the entry control gate, the yet to be invented IoT gizmo.

Yes, yes, I know. You still think serious computing only happens with a mouse and keyboard. I’m sure that people said the same about punch cards.

The desktop/laptop paradigm is now edge-case computing outside of work, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be within. Word processors and presentation tools are no longer fit for purpose, as neither can produce content that is responsive to be consumed on any sort of screen (and don’t even get me started on people who produce A4 portrait PDFs these days. There is a special place in hell for you lot). Spreadsheets are an admission that your core IT systems don’t do their jobs properly. Email is pervasive and will remain for a while to come, mostly because there don’t seem to be any groups fighting for open standards in the realm of collaboration platforms. They will come. They inevitably will come.

So there’s a call to arms. #noPC by 2020. Not because PCs (and Macs) aren’t good, or aren’t useful. But because they are the past and a good stretch goal should take you boldly into the future.

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