The PIE Abacus costs summary – with the implications for services

  • NB: There is now a downloadable version of this content, called 'Weighing the costs and 'value added' of the PIE Abacus' : HERE


The costs for the PIE Abacus have been deliberately made extremely straightforward and simple to calculate. The cost is £80 per annum, per Abacus (plus VAT). What this means is that the real cost is not the PIE Abacus licence charge, but the cost in staff time, in discussion and planning.

However, you will need a minimum of 10 Abacuses for a PIE Abacus 'customer account', which means that in practice, the cost starts at £800, for 10; and if you want 20 Abacuses, that will be £1,600; and so on, to whatever level.[1]

Here we will give an overview of how that works, for a wide range of services; and how you can still take part, even with a smaller scale agency that will not necessarily need 10 Abacuses.

  • NB: You may later finder it simpler to go straight to the pages that relate to your own scale and needs; or go to the FAQs related to your interests..


Larger agency costs

In any medium to large agency, with anything between ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred or more services, the cost would be £80 for each service that you wish to include, at this stage. That is to say, you can start with a smaller number, for selected services; and increase the number you contract for at a later stage, as and when you wish to roll this out through more services or divisions of the agency.

To keep the accounting from getting too confusing, however, we do propose to allow a recalculation of numbers only every six months; so if you do plan to phase in a rollout of the PIE Abacus, it may be wise to allow initially for some incremental growth in take up over the first, more exploratory stages.

In any case, we would also recommend that any larger agency should keep in reserve some of its Abacuses, and contract for a few more than the number of services that it wants to include, for use for the agency as a whole.

This then allows you to create additional, more topic-specific Abacuses within your service, to help to get an overview of the state of play, across the whole agency, and analyse trends. The way that may work, in various scenarios, is spelled out HERE.

  • As a general rule, though, for a medium to large agency, we would suggest anything between 10 and 20% of the total might be reserved for such 'topic' (or ‘analytic’) Abacuses; or more depending on the complexity of internal structures, or changing needs.


Smaller agencies’ costs

For a small agency or network, with less that 10 services, a cost of £80, with a minimum of 10 Abacuses may seem too high a bar. But it is worth bearing in mind that for a smaller outfit, you may not need to use a PIE Abacus at all.  You may not even greatly benefit, from using the software.

With only perhaps 6-8 services, it should be perfectly workable to use the Pizazz on paper for your assessments and planning; and then send in your observations, on paper, to your Head Office, or whatever central information point you may have.

It’s then quite manageable for an admin worker or whoever to collate and put all responses into a single document as a progress report, and for the management team and/or the PIE lead to go through them, by eye, to pick out any significant issues, trends and options.

  • The Pizazz process, with its Big Five themes and its five stages of assessment, analysis, planning etc, is just the same whether you use the paper or the software version; and the benefit of the team discussions and future planning – which is the most important part – is the same.


Cost sharing

There are still some circumstances, though, in which it may be useful for smaller services or a small network to have an Abacus of their own. For example, you might be invited by local commissioners and strategic planners to take part in a local strengths and needs audit, using the PIE Abacus.

But in this event, you might expect the commissioning group itself to purchase the PIE Abacus, and from the number they have contracted for, they can allocate one to any smaller local services.

Similarly,  you might be invited to participate in a research study, which was using the PIE Abacus to gather data from participating services.   But in this situation, you might expect the research institute itself to have budgeted to pay for the PIE Abacus licence, and to simply allocate one or more of the Abacuses it then has to your service.

Finally, we may find that there could be any number of smaller, perhaps more specialist or ‘stand alone’ services that share a common interest, though they may be widely dispersed, so that face-to-face meeting to share views and learning would not be practical.

  • In that case, one option is to create a purchaser consortium, rather like a consumer co-op. For this, one of the agencies takes the Lead Agency role, to purchase an account and share the Abacuses and the costs between you.


Individual user Abacuses

Note that in these costs we have made no distinction between an Abacus that is allocated for a frontline team or service, with one individual operating as the scribe for the whole team, and an Abacus that is allocated to a particular individual worker, for their own assessment, planning and practice sharing purposes.

This might seem, at first sight, quite a high cost, granted that you can get a whole team’s assessment for the same price as a single individual’s. But there are some workers whose role in the system or network is to liaise with others outside the agency’s own network, in which they are employed, attached or embedded.

Workers whose role – and value to the agency – involves communicating with their peers outside, such as in a professional network or other community of practice – will want to be able to give their own views and perspective on shared issues as they see them, rather than having to consult with all the other members, to give those of the team as a whole.This extra flexibility and speed of response is probably most useful for those in a more professional role.

  • For others with more specialist or management functions within the agency, the possible value of individual Abacuses will vary from agency to agency, dependent to some extent on the complexity or degree of specialism in the work of the agency, and perhaps on the extent or development of inter-agency  structures locally.


Individuals in smaller, specialist service groups.

Incidentally, what this means in practice for a smaller but (perhaps) more specialist service, of perhaps just five or six teams, you might nevertheless find it worthwhile to invest in a PIE Abacus of your own, if this would then enable some specialist workers within your service to have individual Abacuses, as that will then allow them to liaise with colleagues and opposite numbers in your particular field.

  • Again , it is entirely up to you as to how you might use them, how far the value added for these staff may outweigh the outlay, and how many you might want to have.


[1] if you are unable to reclaim VAT, you might think of that as a simple £100 per Abacus per annum; with a little spare change.


Further background reading/listening/viewing

PIElink pages

The PIE Abacus costs (summary) : HERE

Getting started with a PIE Abacus 'customer account' : HERE

Larger agency costs : HERE

Smaller agencies’ costs : HERE

Cost sharing : HERE

Individual user Abacuses : HERE

Service users' PIE assessments : HERE


Library items

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

'Weighing the costs and 'value added' of the PIE Abacus' : HERE


The PIE Abacus

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


For more on the PIE Abacus, see:

The PIE Abacus - an on-line Pizazz (summary) : HERE


All PIE Abacus FAQs : HERE