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Business Case Study: Communication at Dell

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  • 0:02 Strategic…
  • 1:33 The Case Study of Dell…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Seemingly simple aspects of running a business can be turned into a competitive advantage. In this lesson, we'll discuss how the management at Dell Computers became masters of strategic communication and how that helped their company succeed.

Strategic Communication Framework

Before we talk about how well Dell has become at strategic communication, let's discuss what strategic communication means, and why it is important. Strategic communication is the process whereby important, strategic, and operational information is passed on to organizational constituents through a number of different mediums, and feedback is then returned.

If you go into work on Monday morning and walk over to fill your coffee mug and hear your colleague Janice talking about how she heard that the department you both work in - accounts receivable - is going to be outsourced to a collection firm, and then Andy, also from your office, comes over and says that's wrong - he heard it was accounts payable that was going to be outsourced to the company's bank - that is definitely not strategic communication. Those issues are strategic, and the employees working in those offices are important constituents, but allowing rumors to pass is not how an organization focused on strategic communication would operate.

Instead, strategic communication - in the cases mentioned above - would include meetings with upper-level managers announcing to employees, customers, and investors, their operational plans. They may tell them all at once through a press release, or they may tell employees first, so they don't feel betrayed when customers and investors find out. But, whatever the process is, if it is strategic, it is calculated and done for a reason.

The Case Study of Dell Computers

As of 2016, Dell has more than 100,000 employees worldwide and about $55 billion in sales. But in 1984, it was a small startup based in the garage of Michael Dell. Strategic communication for a company based in a garage and employing a few friends is a far cry from the public company Dell became, valued $24 billion in 2013. But because Michael Dell knew that communication was important (not just that communication was present, but that it was deliberate, customized to the audience and purpose, and appropriately delivered), Dell made effective strategic communication an important part of the corporate culture.

In his own words, Dell describes the importance of communication like this: 'Communications are an important part of what you have to offer to customers and shareholders; but, communications has to be in the center to be optimally effective.'

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