Virtual Vertical Integration Essay

Cheap Custom Writing Service

Vertical integration is the degree of control and ownership that a company has on the value chain it is a part of. Vertical integration allows a company to be self-sufficient in terms of intermediate goods and distribution of the final products or services. Apple, a premier computer and consumer electronics company, is a vertically integrated company. Apple has its own hardware-building facilities, software engineering department, exclusive distributorship, and service centers for its products.

Vertical integration reduces the cost and uncertainty of transactions with outside firms and facilitates quality control measures across the entire value chain. Under vertical integration, all the business entities in the value chain are under the same ownership, so they coordinate their activities much better than they would if they were competing firms.

While the advantages of vertical integration are tremendous, it also poses great challenges to a company. The company trying to take over its suppliers’ or distributors’ business may not have the industry knowledge to run those businesses properly. Vertical integration also increases the bureaucratic, accounting, and management costs. These drawbacks frequently offset the benefits of vertical integration.

Virtual vertical integration is a business integration model based on information sharing that captures the advantages of traditional vertical integration, but bypasses the disadvantages associated with it. Virtual vertical integration is an important strategy to consider for any firm with global presence. For firms that engage in business in vertically related activities across different countries, forming traditional ownership-based vertical integration is very difficult because of foreign country regulations, differences in business culture, and exchange rate volatility. Virtual integration offers these companies an attractive strategy to reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of vertical integration. Dell, a leading tech firm, and Toyota, the auto industry giant, successfully employ the virtual vertical integration model to gain competitive advantage in their respective industries.

The trick to successful virtual integration is to establish mutually beneficial business relationships that facilitate vertical transactions between companies. The main advantage of vertical integration stems from the direct link between the distributors, manufacturers, suppliers, and other players in the value chain. The direct link lets the different players of the value chain coordinate their activities efficiently. This direct link can be established because the different divisions of a vertically integrated firm can share their business information without restrictions such as different management styles, incompatible data systems, concern for competition, and corporate strategy secrecy.

In virtual vertical integration, a company builds strong and dependable partnerships with its suppliers and distributors and freely shares its information with them. Together, they form a direct link from one end of the value chain to the other end, which leads to reduced lead times, inventory costs, and returned goods. Virtual integration is based on cooperation rather than ownership. Hence virtual vertical integration allows a company to enjoy the benefits of vertical integration while avoiding the need to invest its assets in unfamiliar businesses. In a sense, virtual integration is similar to outsourcing, but it is unique in that companies share their business information, expertise, and profits across the value chain.

An example of the virtual integration model is Dell, Inc., a computer company that develops, manufactures, sells, and supports computers and related products. Dell has a direct business model, which means that it interacts with its customers directly. Customers place orders directly to Dell, and Dell manufactures and delivers the custom-made products directly to the customer. Because Dell does not make a product before it receives a customer order, it can keep its inventory costs very low.

Dell operates as if it is a vertically integrated structure that owns all the firms in the value chain (supplier, manufacturing firm, distribution firm, marketing firm, and support service). But in fact Dell depends on its business partners to deliver the final products. For example, to meet a personal computer order, Dell may assemble the central processing unit (CPU) while it gets the monitor from Sony and arranges support service through contracted service technicians. The different companies can work seamlessly because Dell, through its integrated information system, makes all the relevant information—hardware and software design, customer buying trends, inventory size, tracking information—available to them. By facilitating unrestricted information flow both ways through the value chain, Dell can link all the activities of the value chain to get the desired effect of vertical integration.


  1. Joan Magretta, “The Power of Virtual Integration: An Interview with Dell Computer’s Michael Dell,” Harvard Business Review (March–April 1998);
  2. Andreas Zielke and Matthias Pohl, “Virtual Vertical Integration: The Key to Success,” McKinsey Quarterly (v.3, 1996).

This example Virtual Vertical Integration Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

See also:



Always on-time


100% Confidentiality

Special offer!