Emory Report
March 2, 2009
Volume 61, Number 22



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March 2
, 2009
Guiding the team

By Kim Urquhart

Christopher Uher always admired Crimson Tide Coach Wimp Sanderson’s ability to mold his athletes into a team. Uher, who was a manager in college for the University of Alabama basketball team, is now doing much the same at Emory as director of Project Compass.

Uher is leading a team of 75 full-time employees and consultants in a two-year project to unite Emory’s financial systems. On Sept. 1, Emory and Emory Healthcare will transition to the new PeopleSoft Financial accounting system. The initiative, named “Project Compass,” is one of the University’s largest ever in terms of people and dollars, says Uher. His charge: “To make sure all the pieces of the puzzle align come Sept. 1.”

The goal of the new system is to improve efficiency and functionality and ensure continuity in financial accounting across Emory. Uher describes PeopleSoft as “a one-stop shop of financial information.” The Project Compass team is currently out in the community, educating faculty and staff about the benefits of a standardized and automated financial management process and how the transition will affect them — whether it be a travel expense, grant, or departmental purchase.

Change management, communications and training activities will help facilitate the individual and organizational sides of change. Joining the change management team under Uher’s charge are project managers, a technical team and others, all of whom Uher counts among “the most knowledgeable people on campus.”

“We have a great crew. They come to work every day with a very positive mindset, which makes my job so much easier,” he says. Many team members left other posts at Emory to join the project. “They’ve done a very good job of going from a work-based to a project-based mindset,” he notes, and most importantly, “they care about Emory as a whole.”

Consistent with Emory’s Strategic Plan, Project Compass is guiding the way to “One Emory.” Creating business processes that are consistent across all units can be a challenge, he says. The University and Emory Healthcare are like “two different vehicles moving at two different speeds that need to be at the finish line at the same time.” Uher’s job: “To push the gas pedal.”

Driving a project that is often “running at 1,000 miles an hour” comes naturally to Uher, a dedicated athlete who hits the gym daily and logs well over 100 miles a week on his Klein Quantum Race road bike.

September will mark another big event: Uher will ride 150 miles over two days in support of multiple sclerosis in the MS I50 at Callaway Gardens. He’s raised $14,000 in the past three years he has participated.

To train, Uher rides along the old railbed on the Silver Comet Trail and the Vinings/Buckhead area, for hills, on a weekly basis. “To me, cycling is freedom,” he explains.

He is also an avid golfer and former caddy who grew up on the golf course. In addition to cycling and golfing, Uher spends his free time with his sons, 19-month-old Murphy and 12-week-old Crosby, the newest member of the family.

It was the birth of Murphy that changed the pace of his previous life as a consultant constantly on the road. Before joining Emory in 2007, Uher spent 10 years with Big Five firms like Arthur Andersen and Deloitte Consulting. With experience in PeopleSoft implementation in health care and higher education, he was a good fit to drive Emory’s project.

“I love the world of higher ed,” he says, “it’s a whole different mindset, a different challenge.” Out of the 15-plus projects Uher has worked on, he says Project Compass is among the best-supported from an administration standpoint. “That’s what excites and motivates me — knowing every day that I have trust and I have the backing to do what I think is right. I have to prove that I earn that, of course. From my perspective that’s all you can ever ask for.”

Uher urges every employee to learn about Project Compass.“Please read about us or attend whatever information sessions you can. This transition is something we need to do, it’s not glamorous and it’s going to cause disruption,” Uher acknowledges. “We are here to support you and to try to make it as seamless as possible. If you have any questions please reach out to us. We are here for you.”