The Wal-Mart of High Tech?

As I mentioned previously, while reporting our recent feature, "Living in Dell Time," I spent 45 minutes with the company's CEO, Kevin Rollins.

Out of that conversation came a Web-only Q&A, which we just published for our readers on the Web. The Q&A covers the company's supply chain strategy, approach to setting goals, and contrarian nature — and is a good look at Rollins' leadership style.

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  • Subhash from Aankhen


    Great articles on Dell: Living in Dell Time and Wal-Mart of High-Tech. Some of the technology used to drive that speed and agility you refer to is from Aankhen Inc.

    Enjoyed reading the articles.

  • dave

    Great piece.

    Mr. Rollins has a clear strategy based on true competitive advantage.

    I have three questions:

    1. What are the conditions for moving to a direct-to-consumer model? Is it only in high-end specialty items that you can truly move to this level of integration? What are the general rules for channels versus DTC?

    2. How important is size? There is an inherent benefit in scale that enables Dell to dictate terms to its supliers and partners...and they have marketing clout that can change consumer positioning overnight. It seems that you must have reasonable share of your industry to be able to adopt this level of integration. What are the ways that a small player can implement this and how do they do it?

    3. What is the flip-side of the coin? WalMart is destroying independent retailers and changing the economics of small towns (most would say for the bad). It has also destroyed several suppliers via its heavy-handed tactics. They create a supply chain dependence on their volume and then use it as a club to meet their objectives. "If you don't do it, we'll do it ourselves offshore" is their compassionate response to suppliers who can't make draconian cuts. The "bland products" seems like a fairly benign criticism of Dell. Are there supplier horror stories there as well? I have heard from many unhappy customers who have endured weeks of component replacement and product troubleshooting because Dell will not accept returns. One recent case had the customer service agent saying "Complain to Michael Dell, it is his policy...we will do everything to fix your machine, but we will not accept a return." That is not terribly customer-centric sounding to someone who cannot do their work for lack of a computer. But is this really the worst of it? What doesn't Mr. Rollins tell us? If there is nothing truly damning, then you cannot help but be impressed.

    Bill kicks it when he leaves out the political commentary!