What are services, products and/or activities and how do I identify them?

Services, products and/or activities are the key things that must be done or produced to achieve the desired outcome. Again, depending on the structure of your agency and how work is organized, this may be a program, a bureau, or a division within your agency.

Identifying SPAs

Visual example of brainstorming using sticky notes.Brainstorming is one technique you can use to generate a list of agency services, products and/or activities. While some brainstorming methods rely on oral responses, we suggest using sticky notes for this exercise.

First, identify the question(s) that will provide you with the needed information. In this particular case you may want to ask:

  1. What are our agency’s services, products and/or activities (SPAs?)  (or)
  2. Based on desired outcomes, what are the services, products and/or activities that contribute to this particular core function?

Be sure that everyone understands the question and what you are asking him or her to identify. Write the question on a flip chart or white board so that everyone can see it.

Allow silent time for each person to write down his or her list of responses on the post-it notes (one item per note). Give the group 5-7 minutes to silently record the items. When time has elapsed, ask participants to place their post-its on a table or wall where everyone can view them.

Ask the group to review the list of items for clarity and discard any duplicates.  If you have used the first approach, your next step will be to place the items recorded on sticky notes under the core functions they work to achieve, see example to right.  Red sticky notes represent core functions, while yellow represent SPAs.

Breaking Down SPAs

Services, products and activities (SPAs) typically define the broad levels of agency operations, i.e. work of a division, large program area, or major service(s) provided. In general, most SPAs are comprised of a smaller set of work systems, processes, or activities known, for performance planning purposes, as sub SPAs. Sub SPAs are the things that when implemented, work to achieve results for the broader SPA area.  The following sections provide examples for "Resource Management" and "Research, Analysis and Information Management" core functions.

Resource Management Core Function Example

An agency could define their operations (i.e. services, products & activities) as follows:

  1. Financial Management
  2. Personnel Services
  3. Information Technology, and
  4. Communications

You will note the very broad scope of operations at the SPA level. If the agency wanted to include a more detailed slice of operations to better define what is encompassed within each SPA they might include the following sub-SPAs in their performance plan:

Financial Management (SPA)

  1. Cash Management
  2. Financial Planning
  3. Budget Preparation
  4. Grant Management
  5. Financial Monitoring & Reporting
  6. Document Processing & Pre-Audit
  7. Expenditure Verification and Correction
  8. Inter-agency Financial Coordination

Personnel Services (SPA)

  1. Employee Services
  2. Premises Services
  3. Office Services
  4. Staff and Health Safety Services
  5. Customer Service

Information Technology (SPA)

  1. Customer Interface
  2. System Support
  3. Applications
  4. Business Continuity

Communications (SPA)

  1. Web Administration
  2. Public Relations

As you can see from the example above sub SPAs provide a more narrow and detailed focus of agency operations. Sub SPAs are the activities at the next lower level within the broader SPA classification.  Another way to talk about it might be to say that a SPA is the 10,000-foot view of agency operations while a sub SPA is the 5000-foot view.

Research, Analysis and Information Management Core Function Example

An agency could define their operations (i.e. services, products & activities) as follows:

  1. Procurement of Funds to Support Reach and Information Availability
  2. Data management
  3. Decision support Services

Data management (SPA)

  1. Justice Data Warehouse
  2. Detention Database
  3. Web-based Access

Decision support Services (SPA)

  1. Correctional Impact statements
  2. Program evaluations
  3. Research Studies
  4. Prison Population Forecast
  5. Technical Assistance and Collaboration

Including Sub SPAs

Depending on the scope of operations, agencies may find it helpful to include sub SPAs in their agency performance plan. Sub SPAs are not a required component of the agency performance plan, nor are they required data elements in the State’s budget system.

While performance measures and targets are required elements at the SPA level, they are not required at the sub SPA level. Measures must be directly linked on the plan and entered into the budget system at the SPA level. As an option, you may also include measures at the sub SPA level for performance management and improvement purposes.

If it is helpful to include a more detailed slice of agency operations for planning and performance management purposes, please list them on the plan accordingly.

Program Area
Performance Management
Topic(s)
Performance Plan, SPAs, Services, Products, Activities, Brainstorming

Printed from the Iowa Department of Management website on January 18, 2018 at 11:49am.