WAL-MART - A Case Study in Managing Technical Transitions
Managing Technical Transitions
Prof. Michael Lawless
February 24, 2001
Founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, Wal-Mart followed an amazing pattern of success and growth, eclipsing all other U.S. department store retailers by the early 1990's. In early spring 2001, Wal-Mart enjoyed a huge market capitalization of over $230B, which was down from highs of nearly $300B in early 2000. Over the last year, however, Wal-Mart had suffered a number of failures in its Internet-based operations, as it tried feverishly, along with many other traditionally "bricks-and-mortar" companies, to make a transition to the Internet. As much of the commotion in the markets relative to the Internet subsided due to a slowing economy and a number of high-profile "dot-com" failures, Wal-Mart continued to experiment with it's Internet presence and corporate strategy. In this paper, we discuss Wal-Mart and its technical transition to the Internet.
First, we examine the company from a value chain and core competency perspective, to gain insight on what value the company brings to the table, both in its traditional and Internet operations. We give a synopsis of Wal-Mart's recent and current online philosophies, and then turn to Wal-Mart's strategy as it relates to the transition. Finally, we provide an analysis of Wal-Mart's prospects and recommendations for the future.
Sources of Value
Wal-Mart had always invested heavily in infrastructure. They were among the first to use point-of-sale Uniform Product Codes (UPC) scanning, and intra-store radio frequency (RF) transmission of product UPC and pricing information between central store inventory systems and personnel with scanners on the store shelves. However, their most valuable infrastructure investments were made at a significantly higher level. A satellite system connecting all stores was initially installed in...