How Dells Supply Chain Management Has Impacted On Their Customer Base


The purpose of the project Is to see the questions faced by Dell whether the customers would react positively to the availability of Dell products in the retail market and what would be their main criteria when choosing the retail purchase over the direct purchase. Although the market expansion and development were viewed to be essential, the problem is the potential reaction of customers. Therefore, in order to obtain the answers to the above questions, the next step is to carry out the research. This research, as suggested by Robson 2002:591 could be an exploratory or descriptive study.

Exploratory research would allow establishing what was happening in the marketplace and provide a better insight of the problem. Therefore, this approach would be appropriate in this case because a problem has not been clearly defined due to Dell not yet being an existing retail entrant and so it would allow Dell to gain a greater understanding of the market that were considering to enter.

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Exploratory research would often rely on secondary research such as reviewing available literature or data, or qualitative approaches such as informal discussions with consumers or competitors, and more formal approaches through in-depth interviews, focus groups, projective methods, case studies or pilot studies.

Although the results of exploratory research would not be usually held to be useful for strategic decision-making, they could allow us to obtain significant insight of the problem.

Descriptive research could be used for the purposes of data and characteristics description about the studied subject. For instance, this 1 Saunders et al. (2009

research could be used in order to find out what age group is buying a particular brand product or to discover how many competitors a company has in their marketplace. While carrying out descriptive research, it must be remembered that in order to obtain accurate results, the research requirements must be properly complied with.

Usually, the descriptive research would involve examining the data and would deal with everything that could be counted and studied. This research would usually have an impact to the lives of the people and so by applying it Dell could identify the needs of their potential customers and retail market tendencies when it comes to examining the buyers. This type of research could include various research methodologies, such as observations, surveys and tests.

The basic difference between exploratory and descriptive research is the research design. Exploratory research follows a format that is less structured and more flexible than descriptive research. This approach works well when the researcher does not have an understanding of the topic or the topic is new and it is hard to pinpoint the research direction. The downside however is that results may not be as useful in decision-making. Nevertheless, the exploratory research could contribute to a more structured descriptive study.

Again, while descriptive research often fails to meet the test of research validity and reliability, when conducted in a way that adheres to a strict set of research requirements it is likely to capture relevant and reasonably useful results.

Therefore, in Dell case, in order to understand customer needs better and to better understand the market place it would be appropriate to carry out market research by employing both the exploratory and descriptive research to collect the information required. However, in this case, it should be considered carrying out the exploratory research first implementing the descriptive research at the early stages of the retail market entry or, alternatively, it could be used at this stage to obtain the data to supplement further planned researches.

3. Literature review

It is argued that the business world is very complex and can be understood by looking into the complex things by the way of research. For example, Remenyi et al noted that "to discover the details of the situation it is important to understand the reality or perhaps a reality working behind them".

Furthermore, the research and analysis process as said by Zikmund (2003) must ensure that the data is accurate, consistent with other information, uniformly entered, complete and arranged to simplify coding and tabulation. In addition, in order to ensure the accuracy of data, it has to be carefully analysed, edited and sometimes coded. This information is important to establish appropriate tests. For example, Zikmund believes that the appropriate tests depend on central tendency or total distribution, variables involved, measurement scale, etc.

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Lawley (2007) provides that while conducting a research, it is essential to decide on what is the best way to gather the information to provide the answers to the research objectives. Zikmund states that 'a research design is a master plan specifying the methods and procedures for collecting and analyzing the needed information'. Research design includes three common research designs: exploratory research, descriptive research and causal or experimental research. Furthermore, according to Sekaran (2003) data can be obtained from primary or secondary sources, where primary data refers to information obtained firsthand by the researcher on the variables of interest for the specific purpose of the study while the secondary data refers to information gathered from the already existing sources.

Kraemer and Dedrick (2001) emphasise that there had been a sound interplay between customer focus, supplier partnerships, mass customisation, or just-in-time and coordinating IT for example in traditional business boundaries that include in the value chain among suppliers, the manufacturer, service and support partners and end users towards the evolution of the virtual corporation. Dell also invested in the capability of the Internet as a way to improve internal processes such as ordering, assembly, delivery and support, to coordinate its broader value web, and to enhance the customer relationship. Governed by the idea that information can be diffused, Dell codified information about product offerings to simplify processes. Detail Continually, Dell logs the interfaces with its customers to determine purchasing behaviour, demand patterns and satisfaction levels. Through the process of direct contact with end customers, Dell was enabled to know how customers buy computers and what motivates them in purchasing as well as to anticipate demands. The knowledge in replacement cycles also enabled Dell to forecast demand carefully and target customers with its direct sales force.

 If there are words to describe the general strategy Dell have chosen it would be - optimised integration whereby the supply chain is integrated to meet and exceed suppliers' and customers' expectations while not sacrificing quality and relationships. Dell takes into account the collective performance in the creation, distribution and support of an end-product (National Research Council, 2000, p. 27). True enough, Dell increased integration to boost the overall performance of the supply chain through focusing and coordinating the relevant sources of the needs of the supply chain. Dell benefits from this process as evident in increased functional and procedural synergy, faster response to the industry and market changes and increased competitiveness and profitability (National Research Council, 2000, pp. 27-33).

For Dell, there are core and non-core activities. The already mentioned are the core activities and those non-cores could be outsourced especially if it means furthering the managerial, financial and informational control over the operation. Provide that with IT sourcing must start with the business imperative, Dell accentuates cost and capability by delegating certain functions as internal and external so as to facilitate value-added outsourcing, equity holdings, 'co-sourcing', multiple suppliers and spin-offs (Willcocks et al., 2002, pp. 174-177). 

As such, the existing business model at Dell cannot be easily imitated. Basically because competitors lack the know-how to make it work to their advantage, or they may embed conflicts into the models in use. Henry Lucas (2002, pp. 105-110) highlighted that the direct ordering strategy and the Internet largely impacted Dells' business model making it well positioned in the adoption of e-commerce and take advantage of the Internet. Following the business model within Dell is due to wide use of technology allowing it to substitute information for physical parts and buffer stock and thus exhibiting a competitive advantage that is built-in (Lucas, 2002, p. 110).

4. Research Questions & Objectives

5. Methodology

5.1 Research Perspective

            According to Saunders et al. (2003), research perspectives usually consist of three parts, the perspective of the positivist, interpretivist and the realist approaches. In my research I will be using the Interpretivist approach, (in between the continuum) albeit the fact the research is basically descriptive in nature wherein I will be describing the fundamentals of supply chain management within Dell and distinguish how such process contribute to gaining competitive advantage. In particular, as the researcher I will demonstrate the benefits and downsides of Dell's Direct Model and critically evaluate the e-business processes Dell converged into. Thereby, using an inductive approach to form a theory as to how SCM can be optimised to use in obtaining the competitive advantage.

 5.2 Research Approach

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            As a descriptive research, the study intends to present facts concerning the nature and status of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study as well as present conditions, events or systems based on the impressions or reactions of the respondents of the research (Creswell, 1994). In addition, descriptive research concerns relationships and practices that exist, beliefs and processes that are ongoing, effects that are being felt, or trends that are developing.     

 5.3 Research Design

             The research will use a multi-method approach to gather the pertinent data as it can yield to two major advantages. As Saunders et al. (2003) puts it, on the one hand is that different methods can be used for different purposes in the study and on the other is that it enables triangulation to take place. The research will operate within the cross-sectional as I will be collecting data for a single case which is Dell, using questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, structured observation, and document analysis for the purpose of focusing on the breadth of the research and thereby increasing the validity and the truthfulness of the research.

             For my research, I have chosen the survey strategy because it can gather a large amount of data from a sizeable population in a highly economical way from where and when?(Saunders et al, 2003). The questionnaire will be data gathering instrument used for the survey and would be composed of two parts. The first part will contain information regarding the researcher and the purpose of the study; details about the respondents. The second part of the questionnaire is the survey proper. It would be composed of 8 categories each adapted from the review of related literature. The questions will be non-threatening and easy to accomplish.

             Case study method will be also applied. Robson (2002) defines case study as a "strategy for doing research which involves an empirical investigation of a particular contemporary phenomenon within its real life context using multiple sources of evidence." This research would employ telephone interviews which allow the researcher to have a contact to participants with whom it would be impractical to conduct an interview on a face to face basis because of the distance and restraining costs involved and time required to conduct the interview. This is appropriate for the study because the researcher would then benefit from the easier access, speed and relatively lower cost of conducting telephone interviews. 

5.4 Data Collection

             For this, both the qualitative and quantitative approaches to research will be employed. Qualitative data will be collected from questionnaires and interviews which will involve employees of Dell with direct authority on supply chain management. Qualitative data will be also gathered from the representatives of computer/electronic industry administrators. Through this method, qualitative elements that do not have standard measures such as behavior, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs within the organizational domain will be analyzed.

  As a qualitative study, the research will make use of both primary and secondary data. The primary source of data will come from the researcher-made questionnaire and interview questions. The primary data frequently gives the detailed definitions of terms and statistical units used in the study. These are usually broken down into finer classifications. The secondary sources of data will come from published articles, social science journals, theses and related studies on corporate management. Acquiring secondary data are more convenient to use because they are already condensed and organized. Moreover, analysis and interpretation are done more easily.

Quantitative research will be gathered from the survey conducted. Quantitative research was chosen for the study so as the results can be generalized. Data will analyzed with the use of a 5-point Likert Scale and weighted mean and percentage analysis.


June 10

July 10

August 10

W/k commencing










Thinking of a topic and browsing for inspiration


Define topic area and prepare topic choice form



Literature searching and details project planning. Preliminary literature review, reading on methodology, definition of research question, and plan of research approach.



Continue literature searching, background reading and plan research methods. Start writing full literature review.



Develop data collection instruments (questionnaires, interview question, search strategies etc.)



Data gathering - Send questionnaires & undertaking interviews




Chase questionnaires and compiling results




Data analysis


Compiling references/bibliography and appendices

Submission of final draft

Submit Final Report