Steven Davis, chief architect, Walt Disney Studios

Steven Davis, vice president of IT and chief architect at Walt Disney Studios, likes to juggle. His pastime, he says, puts him "in command of a complicated environment, in a zone, working perfectly, and knowing exactly what to do next."

It's quite fitting for a man whose job is equal parts precision and improvisation.

"Steve is one of the rare individuals who has both strong business acumen and very strong systems and architecture skills," says Jeff Mirich, CIO at Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. "He is fantastic at translating complex ideas into simple business terms that can be easily understood by nontechnical leaders."

One initiative that put those skills on display was a project to create a decision-making framework on the business side that's similar to the IT department's. That structure makes the IT unit more agile and better positioned to support business needs and new opportunities, Davis says. It also guarantees that processes that will give the business an edge in the marketplace and increase revenue will get the dollars and the technologies they need, he says.

The framework offers "an empirical way to divide up money in a way that makes sense to everyone," he adds.

Davis, 50, says getting buy-in from various stakeholders is a challenge. "The best way to persuade people is to make them part of it," he says. "In the end, everyone has worked on it and thinks it's the way to do it.

"No one will choose to see our movie because we have a cool-looking invoice," Davis notes. "We need to focus our talent on innovation that will give the business an edge."

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