About Financial Clustering

Financial activities at the University are accomplished in three general areas:

  • Business Process Owners (BPOs), who are responsible for central financial activities.
  • Financial clusters, which are responsible for high-risk financial activities within each campus, college, or administrative unit.
  • Department (local or distributed) financial areas.


  • Allows the University to balance efficiency, service delivery, accountability, and risk.
  • Promotes consistency of processes and procedures.
  • Increases data integrity.
  • Pools staff resources, which allows:
    • Specialized skills and expertise to be available to all campuses/colleges/admin units.
    • Consistent coverage during leaves and absences.
  • Allows for a higher level of data analysis and reporting.

For a visual depiction of financial responsibilities, view the Integrated Services Framework (pdf).

The initial financial cluster models followed the basic outline set forth by the Transforming the U task force for administrative structure and as used by the new colleges. The clusters report to the Chancellor's Office, Dean’s Office, or Vice President’s Office and have a dotted-line relationship to the central business process owners.

Clustered Functions

Key functions located in the cluster include the following:

  • Cluster Director provides overall leadership and management to the financial operations clustered within a college, campus or administrative unit. 
  • Procurement Specialist provides oversight and maintenance of the procurement process, will receive assets and resolve all match exceptions. 
  • Voucher Preparers complete transactions that allow for the paying of internal or external suppliers of merchandise or services.
  • Bill Preparers process bills to external organizations, adjust bills and monitor aged receiving reports.
  • Journal Preparers process journal entries including intra-and inter-fund transfers, mandatory transfers, balance sheet transactions and correcting entries.
  • Enterprise or Data Analysts define, analyze, measure, interpret, and present key institutional data for management, strategic and executive level decision making.
  • Position Management is not required to be in the financial cluster; however, as the U of M anticipates position budgeting,  there needs to be a dotted-line relationship between Position Management and the financial cluster.

Separation of duties for system access

Effective February 1, 2010

Separation of Duties

Transaction preparation

  • One individual may not hold both the procurement specialist and voucher specialist (a.k.a. vendor payment) roles.
  • For PCard reconciliation, the cardholder may act as the transaction preparer.
  • For Expense Reports, the subject of the reimbursement request may act as the transaction preparer.


  • Individuals may not be the transaction "initiator" and the approver. That is, they may not direct staff to create a specific transaction and then act as the approver. Examples of this unallowable activity:
    • The approver for Department X may not tell someone to enter a transaction to transfer funds from account A to account B and then act as the approver for that transaction.
    • The approver for a PCard may not direct the cardholder to make a specific purchase, and then approve the PCard reconciliation report.
  • Individuals holding Certified Approval and DeptID Approval roles in EFS may not approve transactions that they have initiated.
  • It is strongly recommended that one individual not hold both the Certified Approval role and a DeptID approval role for the same DeptID.

If you would like to review specific role combinations or access for an individual or group, please contact the University Financial Helpline.

Getting access

Each person requesting access to a specific role in the system must complete training requirements, pass any assessments, and complete/submit an access request form. Access requests require supervisor approval, cluster director approval, and may also require Resource Responsibility Center (RRC) contact approval.

Approver roles

There are several approval roles within a department. It is recommended that units not establish one individual as both the primary and only alternate approver for any "level" of approval, to avoid transactions getting stuck in pending status when one individual is absent or unavailable.

  • Primary and alternate Certified Approver
  • Primary and alternate requisition approver, under $10,000
  • Primary and alternate requisition approver, over $10,000 (an additional approval is required; this is not "in lieu of" the under $10,000 approval but in addition to it)
  • Primary and alternate vendor payments approver, under $10,000
  • Primary and alternate vendor payments approver, over $10,000 (an additional approval is required; this is not "in lieu of" the under $10,000 approval but in addition to it)
  • Primary and alternate travel and reimbursement approver
  • Primary and alternate Journal Entry approver
  • Primary and alternate PCard approver
  • Primary and alternate Credit Invoice approver (related to accounts receivable and billing activity)

Taking into account that one person may not approve transactions they have initiated, it would be prudent to avoid assigning the requisition approval roles to requisition preparers, avoid assigning the vendor payments approval roles to those who can prepare those transactions, and so forth.

Do not assign the person who also holds preparer access for a type of transaction to both the primary and alternate approver for that activity within the department.

Preparer roles

There are many transaction preparer roles in the financial system. Some roles involve more risk than others, require additional training, and typically are more complex to perform in the system itself. A decision was made to create shared service areas called "clusters" in each college or administrative unit to handle these more complex, higher risk functions. The roles below are considered "clustered functions" and require business process owner approval prior to the access being granted:

  • Procurement specialist
  • Voucher specialist/vendor payments
  • Billing specialist
  • Journal Entry/Budget Journal preparer (Journal Entry approval is also considered a clustered function)

Keep in mind that each request for new access in the above roles requires detailed justification (is the request to replace a departing employee, has there been a significant change in the volume of activity being processed by the unit, if so what changed, etc.).

Be aware that simply attending training and passing the associated assessments does not guarantee access to the system. Similarly, cluster directors and RRC contacts should be aware that simply because they wish to grant the access to additional staff does not necessarily mean the access will be granted. There should be a compelling business case to add staff to perform the clustered functions/hold this powerful access.

Contact the University Financial Helpline if a situation arises where there is an urgent need for access or a concern about getting access for additional people in the unit.

Read more about access for EFS here.

Access reports for cluster directors

Periodically a list of who holds which access roles in each unit is prepared for cluster directors and RRC contacts. Contact the University Financial Helpline for more information.

Any questions about system functionality, access to EFS, financial policy, or financial business processes may be directed to the University Financial Helpline or email controller@umn.edu