Customising the PIE Abacus

Any medium to large agency or network will want to create a structure of Abacuses with a focus on particular areas of their work, customised to suit the nature and the organisation of their services.   For those newly signing up to use the software, a conversation about how best to devise a structure, a multi-view Abacus network that will best suit the work,  is part of the process. (see: FAQ: How to build a multi-Abacus structure, HERE).

What is less obvious is that, with the software, there is also quite a lot of scope for customising of the Abacus itself - the language, the fields, the progress levels, even the criteria.

But please note that customising the PIE Abacus itself in the ways outlined here is a quite advanced use of the software. It is advisable only for those that are well versed in its use; and probably best reserved for those who have completed the PIEs assessment training.

Note also that this section is being revised; and some of the language used here - 'drilling down', 'adding in' -  is still tentative, as we try to work out what wording works best, in the complex needs services sector.


Consistency and common ground

The pen-and-paper version of the Pizazz was released in the autumn of 2018; as a first taste in the development of the proposed assessment process for PIEs. The paper version seems to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach; and it has provided some much needed consistency in services' self assessmentFor some services, especially for smaller, single ('stand alone') services, the pen-and-paper version may still be quite sufficient for your needs.

For the pen-and-paper version, see: Introducing the Pizazz.

(For more on the PIE Abacus pilots, see: Piloting the PIE Abacus)

But the Pizazz on paper lacks the full flexibility that the software version, the PIE Abacus, as software, can offer. The PIE Abacus does offer many additional features, whilst remaining, for consistency, within the overall PIEs 2 framework. It is these we have wanted to explore, via the pilots with a handful of services, which ran over 2019 and 2020.

Here, for now,  we can offer only a short summary of the key customisable features of the PIE Abacus, which make it so attractive.

  • We will be able to provide an on-line training, and a fully illustrated guide to the PIE Abacus, following the final stage pilots.


The 'short form'

At first sight (see below, and/or panel opposite), the PIE Abacus looks very similar to the pen-and paper version of the Pizazz - except that it is  on screen, and in colour. They do use essentially the same five stage process, the same wording etc.   The Handbook - 'Useful questions' - applies to both the pen and paper and the on-line versions.

It should hopefully be very easy for those already familiar with the Pizazz in its pen-and-paper version to find their way around the on-line ‘short form’. There are nevertheless some changes, that may give the on-line version an advantage over the pen-and-paper version.  (See: Key features of the PIE Abacus [1] the 'short form' )


Sharing assessments  and using the 'overlay' feature

Just as significant, however, is the scope for sharing data, with the PIE Abacus.  There are two principal ways to do this, the first being to simply give access to view rights to any individual or organisation that you wish to share with - such as a researcher, or a peer reviewer.  The second is to use the overlay feature, to amalgamate several Abacuses, to create a searchable overview of many different services, to find common themes, and to get an overview of developments, progress, and barriers..

However this 'overly' feature, if then used, opens up a wide range of possibilities, such as - for large organisations with services across multiple localities - a coherent overview and feedback to 'Head Office'.  The overview it creates at locality level also allows sophisticated gap analysis and progress tracking, that will be of particular interest to locality commissioners. For research purposes, at allows access - by agreement - to researchers. with a particular interest in any particular aspect of service design or development (For more details, see: Key features of the PIE Abacus [4]: using the overlay features).

Consistency and flexibility

This extra customisability must however be managed with some care, or the key attraction of the software here - the ability to compare progress and hindrances between services - may be compromised if the core terminology is adapted without thought. We can drill down, and we can add in; (see below); but other modifications can jeopardise the results.

For a fuller account of how this feature can be used to good effect, see the PIEs assessment training.

'Drilling down' and 'adding in'

Firstly, on the PIE Abacus, those familiar five key (or 'headline')  themes of PIEs 2.0 can in principle  be opened out (or ‘drilled down’), to reveal the next tiers of the PIEs 2.0 formula, where specific issues can then be addressed in more detail. (For more details, see: Key features of the PIE abacus [2]; 'drilling down')

The PIE Abacus design also (and already) allows services to add in any further issues of their own – specific questions that are of interest to a particular service, but had not been generally or sufficiently highlighted in the overall main framework of PIEs 2.0. (For more details, see: Key features of the PIE abacus [3]; 'adding in' fields)


(For more details, see: Key features of the PIE Abacus [1] the 'short form' ).

(For more details, see: Key features of the PIE abacus [2]; 'drilling down')

(For more details, see: Key features of the PIE abacus [3]; 'adding in' fields)

(For more details, see: Key features of the PIE Abacus [4]: using the overlay features).

The simplest, most effective way to evaluate and improve your PIE from Daniel O'Brien on Vimeo.


Overall (condensed summary), see:

The PIE Abacus – an on-line version of the Pizazz: HERE


For applications in particular settings, see:

 The PIE Abacus – in medium to large agencies: HERE

The PIE Abacus – in local practice networks: HERE

The PIE Abacus – in small and local service: HERE

The PIE Abacus – in research:  HERE

The PIE Abacus – in communities of practice: HERE

The PIE Abacus – in service user-led assessments: HERE

The PIE Abacus – with services using PIEs1, HERE





Costs and sustainability: HERE.

Use and terms of use: HERE.

Ambition and modesty: HERE

PIEs 1, 2 – and 3?: HERE

The origins of the PIE Abacus: HERE.

Customising the PIE Abacus: HERE