Caution: this section of the site describes a more advanced use of the PIE Abacus. It is best left unless and until you have read/heard 'The PIE Abacus - essential briefing for PIE leads (and others in comparable roles )': HERE and/or read the chapter on Pizazz and the PIE Abacus in Robin Johnson's Psychologically Informed Environments from the ground up; service design for complex needs (HERE)

Customising the PIE Abacus

Three kinds of customisation

There are in fact three forms of customisation that the PIE Abacus allows - and even positively encourages.

The first is a customising of the generic language of the PIEs 2.0 framework to suit the particular nature of the services or agency. This should by now be fairly familiar to all users of this site. and any who have used the Pizazz on paper. We will not explain it further here.

The second kind of cutomising is in creating the structure, the working relationship between multiple Abacuses to suit the organisational shape of the agency of network.  Any medium to large agency or network will probably want to develop such a structure of Abacuses for their services. This kind of customisation is covered in: How to build a multi-Abacus structure: HERE).

There is however a third kind is a customising, of the Abacus itself as it appears on screen, to better suit some particular task or immediate need of the services where you wish to use it  The design of the software allows us considerably greater flexibility than the Pizazz-on-paper did to address the issues that are closest to any agency's real concern  That is what we will be looking more closely at here*.


Customising the PIE Abacus itself

With the iAbacus software, on which the PIE Abacus is built, there is scope for customising of the iAbacus itself - the language, the fields, the progress levels, even the criteria. It is through this built-in flexibility that we were able to build the PIE Abacus at all, putting the Pizazz process, first trialled in the Pizazz-on-paper, into the software.

Here, we will concentrate on three main features - 'drilling down';  adding in 'bespoke fields'; and hiding, to create a 'single thread Abacus'


'Drilling down'

The PIE Abacus in the 'short form' starts with the familiar 'Big Five' key themes of PIEs 2.0 and the Pizazz-on-paper. Those familiar with the paper version will have seen that within each of the headline themes, we have further, more specific or practical activities that we include under each heading.

But the flexible design of the software allows for these five PIEs themes, as shown initially on the screen, to be opened out, to gradually introduce the more specific practice issues of the full PIEs 2.0 formula.

Just click on the plus button (+) , by each theme, and a new screen opens, for you to use as you choose. There you can write in the specific practice elements of each area; for example, to separate 'Training' from 'Support'; or 'Reflective Practice' from the rest of 'Learning and Enquiry'. After that, the PIE Abacus takes you through the five stages of assessment and planning for this new item, incorporating now your more detailed views, exactly as before, with the 'Big Five' account.

This 'drilling down' allows those agencies that are further advanced in their use of the Pizazz process to address in greater detail any of the more specific practice issues in the PIEs 2 framework that they are ready to.

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


Adding in 'bespoke fields'

The PIE Abacus design also allows services to go further, and to 'add in' any further specific issues of their own – that is, to introduce new specific questions that are of interest to a particular service, but had not been generally or not sufficiently highlighted in the overall main framework of PIEs 2.0.

For example, one (hypothetical) agency wishes to undertake training for a range of local community groups involved in a particular project. For this, the term 'Staff training and support' does not quite cover the are they want to focus on. So they add a third area, Training and Support, calling it 'community training' and there they might devise entirely their own success criteria etc etc.

Another agency want to focus on their support to women. This issue touches on all aspects of the PIEs framework, and can be addressed in detail under each theme; but this does not allow the the coherent overview they wish for.  So they add a new main theme, using 'Any other considerations', with a new title, to bring together all aspects of support to women.

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


Creating a single thread Abacus.

A third option is to use the 'hide' feature to mask off all or any issues that are not of immediate concern. This is something you might want to do at 'Head Office' level in a large agency, where

  1. roll out of the PIE approach and/or the PIE Abacus is quite patchy, and/or
  2. the agency is concerned to sound out staff opinions on a particular issue of concern, but does not want to overload them with expectations that they need to complete a full service assessment.

To create a single thread Abacus, the PIE lead in the agency need only hide all the un-wanted threads; and invite all those teams with an Abacus to share and send in their opinions just on the one remaining issue that is shown.  This feature works best in conjunction with a drilled down or bespoke field created for the central or 'Head Office' Abacus.

So, for example, an agency might want to focus particularly on reflective practice; or on staff support; and here, the lead can create an Abacus drilled down to just that feature. Or it might be for a development that is very new, and unique to the service (or research project) or an issues that cuts across a number of areas, that they nevertheless wish to bring into focus.

(NB: the video for this feature is still in preparation)


Consistency and flexibility

This extra customisability must however be managed with some care. One of the key attractions of the PIE Abacus software here - the ability to compare progress and hindrances between services - may be compromised if the core terminology is adapted without thought. (Such modified Abacuses can be 'stacked', but not 'overlaid'*.)

Customising the PIE Abacus itself in the ways outlined here is therefore 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.

  • So for a fuller account of how this feature can nevertheless be used to good effect, see the 'PIE Abacus - essential briefing for PIE leads' (and any others in comparable roles) : HERE

(* NB: This is also covered in the middle section of 'The PIE Abacus - essential briefing for PIE leads and any others in comparable roles': HERE)

(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).


Customising the PIEs 2.0 framework : HERE

A 'one bead' Abacus : HERE

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


Overall (condensed summaries), see:

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

'The PIE Abacus - essential briefing for PIE leads' (and others in comparable roles' : HERE 

PIEs assessment - what is the point? : HERE


Other PIElink pages

For the overall design with the short form, see: Key features of the PIE Abacus [1] the 'short form' ).

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

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

For using the overlay for analysis, see: Key features of the PIE Abacus [4]: using the overlay features).


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

Customising the PIE Abacus: HERE