Dell Case Competition at Harvard

The Dell Case Competition took place on Dec 8 and Dec 9, 2000. The competition was sponsored by Dell, which would like to get some business ideas from MBA students. I believed that the competition started at University of Michigan and now has extended to other business schools (Chicago, Duke, Kellog, Michigan, UNC, and Wharton). The first round took place at each business school. The winning team from each school then competes for the final round in Michigan on Jan 27, 2001. The winning team will get the $10,000 reward (My guess is $10,000 for entire team, probably not for each member. I get this question a lot).
My team consisted of Benjamin Gigot, Yi Sun, Don Khamapirad, and me (Ellis Chi), and we are happy to inform you that we won the first round at HBS and will go to Michigan on January 26.

There were five teams competing at HBS, and each team had 4 students. We were given 24 hours to crack a case. Unlike our HBS cases that are full of text and exhibits, the Dell case was six pages long and only provided the problem scope and a brief description on the competitive landscape. We were allowed to gather data from the public. After 24 hours, we had 20 minutes to present our recommendations to four judges. One of the judges came from Dell. The other three came from different Harvard graduate schools with expertise at merger and acquisition and information technology (IT).

What is the case about? Dell has been primarily a computer hardware maker. With the decline of PC sales in the market, Dell needs to find other market to grow their revenue. Dell wonders if it should enter IT service industry. If the team thinks that it should, what type(s) of IT service(s) should Dell provide and why? How does Dell enter the market in a timely and efficient manner? What type of customers should Dell target?

In 24 hours, we searched the Baker library databases for analyst reports and news articles. We came up with a recommendation and did some financial and marketing analysis (yes, we did use what we learned in marketing) to support our recommendation. The presentation was quite brief. The judges challenged our underlying assumptions and wanted us to provide a risk assessment of our recommendation.

I think there are two reasons why we did better than other teams (I was going to say three, but I think most HBS students are great presenters). First, we laid out the structure of our presentation early on so that we could focus on addressing specific issues at the beginning. Second, we seemed to know about the IT industry quite well, so we didn’t need to spend much time on learning the IT terminologies.

We are flying out to Michigan right after the Finance I final exam. We hope to deliver some more good news to you.