Career Path

Building shared services in a culture of fierce decentralization

In March of 2016, I interviewed Paul Bellack, vice president of global IT and CIO of Magna International, about his plans to develop and execute a centralized IT strategy for the aggressively decentralized global auto parts manufacturer. During that first discussion, Bellack said, “We are a $35 billion company, but we operate more like 300 $100 million companies with IT resources in every one.” And he described the initial stages of the ambitious IT transformation, which centered on security, costs, and data.

It’s been 18 months since that interview, so I decided to check in with Bellack about his progress and what he’s learned about driving major counter-cultural transformation.

What was the driver for the IT transformation?

Paul Bellack: After 55 years of fierce decentralization, our executive committee and board became aware of some unintended and serious consequences for IT. Our transformation was designed to address three fundamental problems: security, scale and synergy. But we had to do that without altering our decentralized model, which is a bit of a magic trick, since decentralization is at the root of our culture.

Magna International

Paul Bellack, VP of Global IT and CIO, Magna International

Now that we are two years into our centralized IT strategy, we have “meat and potatoes” enterprise security: standards, firewalls and some basic metrics for bots and intrusions. It’s pretty routine, but it gets the job done. Our greatest security victory is that we were not impacted by the WannaCry virus. That’s a huge accomplishment considering our enterprise security program was non-existent two years ago.