Customising the PIE Abacus

Any medium to large agency or network will probably want to create a structure of Abacuses for their services, creating additional PIE Abacuses that can focus on particular areas of their work - a structure customised to suit the nature and the organisation of their service.

(See: FAQ: How to build a multi-Abacus structure, HERE).

What may be less immediately obvious is that the software now also allows us considerably greater flexibility than the Pizazz-on-paper did, to address the issues that are closest to any agency's real concerns.

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.)


'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. But the flexible design of the software allows for these five PIEs themes, as shown 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 cut and paste the specifics 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, incorporating your more detailed view, exactly as before.

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'

The PIE Abacus design also allows services to go further, and to 'add in' any further 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', to bring together all aspects of support to women.

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


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 be used to good effect, see the PIEs assessment training.


(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.

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).


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