The case sets Dell’s direct model, internet strategy and management of information into historical context by first describing the computer industry’s shift in the mid-80’s from vertically-integrated corporations like IBM, DEC and NCR to a collection of horizontal “slices” focused on a distinct segment of the industry’s value chain. The case then describes Dell’s inception in Michael Dell’s dorm room in 1983, the company’s entry into the retail channel in 1991, subsequent exit in 1994, Dell’s explosive growth from 1994 to 1999 and the indirect model of several of its competitors. The use of information technology, including the Internet, to accelerate every facet of business by managing information for customers, suppliers and internal use are also explored. Dell Direct concludes by describing other PC firms’ efforts to move towards a build-to-order model and questions whether or not these companies can actually do direct.
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