An on-line version of the Pizazz (summary)

Of all the PIE project's developments over the past 10 years, the PIE Abacus is probably the most ambitious of all.

Four years in development, and now completing the last stages of pilots and further evolution, here we can only begin to outline the key features, and the quite dramatic potential, in this software.

The PIE Abacus - an on-line version of the Pizazz

Since its publication in 2018, the Pizazz in the pen-and-paper format (aka 'the Pizazz on paper') has proven itself to be a powerful self-assessment and forward planning process. It seems well suited to encouraging development in 'frontline' services and especially in smaller organisations, and/or to those at the beginning of exploring the PIEs 2.0 formula, to see what it has to offer.

But larger organisations, and local commissioners, are likely to find the pen-and-paper version has some limitations. A constructive discussion in a wide range of local services may be the sign of a healthy organisation; but in any larger agency, it is not helpful to be presented with a great mass of written up paper forms to collate and interpret, in getting the broader overview they need.

The overview, in medium- to large agencies

The on-line format - which we call the PIE Abacus [1] - now offers a more effective means to get a picture of progress and of any obstacles in services' provision, whether locally or more broadly.

With the on-line software, users [2] in services across the whole country, if need be, can in-put their own self-assessment to a central on-line hub; and they can then share their views on what works, and what needs more work, with colleagues.  At 'Head Office', this can be used to produce an overview of how the organisation as a whole is performing. Here, the analytical tools that the software offers may be particularly attractive - and hopefully more cost effective.

These service-level summary assessments can then be gathered and analysed for a more in-depth view of patterns and progress, for example on a locality basis (eg: ‘all our services in the South West’, or ‘in Newcastle’) or on a specialism basis (eg: ‘all our youth projects’), or in terms of setting (eg: ‘all our accommodation-based services’).

NB: As with Pizazz on paper, it is still the discussions within the staff team that are the most valuable parts of the process. But the paper version and the electronic are designed to work together [3], using the same language and criteria, and the same stages to work through the process. This is not merely a happy accident or spin off, but central to the whole approach

Needs audit in local services networks

Service commissioners in a locality, wishing to get an overview of local provision, needs and gaps and future plans, of what is working and what is hindering, might ask services in their locality to in-put their data to a central systems hub.

It is hoped that this use of the PIE Abacus as a locality needs and systems audit tool may help to identify and address significant gaps in provision, barriers and awkward referral thresholds or procedures, with proposals for improving these pathways.

This more ‘systemic’ use of the PIE Abacus, based on the experience of providing services[1], may also appeal to those arguing not just for greater efficiency but for system change

Providing context, in research and other communities of practice

Researchers likewise will be able to create active information networks, and recruit frontline services specifically for particular research purposes. (See: The PIE Abacus in researchHERE  and The PIE Abacus in communities of practice HERE )

Customising the PIE Abacus

The Abacus software on which the PIE Abacus is built is highly adaptable, with many more features and options than we show here. These include the options

  • to grow and adapt the range of forums, as your service grows;
  • to include the views and plans of individuals as well as whole teams, and
  • to adapt the baseline themes in your analysis to suit your more immediate or more specialist concerns.

See:   Customising the PIE Abacus: HERE

Customising ‘long form’ fields, and the ‘single bead’ option HERE

Available training in the PIE Abacus

NB: The PIEs training from Ladder4Life is a very useful brief introduction to PIEs and the PIE Abacus, in-line and geared for frontline service teams.

The PIEs assessment training from Fertile Imagination Inc, for PIE leads, psychologists and others In comparable roles, has a more in-depth exploration of the principles and practice of PIEs and PIE self assessment, and includes an hour of 1-1 mentoring to support customisation for specific agencies.

Other trainings and trainers are also available.


[1]  (See: FAQ: Why is it called the PIE Abacus?: HERE

[2] NB: a 'user' here means not a 'service user' but the person who uses the PIE Abacus. (See: FAQ: What exactly is a 'contributor'?: HERE)

Nevertheless one of the attractive features of the PIE Abacus IS the option to have enhanced user involvement. It is possible to have a fully independent parallel account of any service, produced by a service user group. The ‘scribe’ feature means that service users do not even need to be computer literate (or literate at all) to be able to have their views heard.  For this to be most effective, however, we may need to develop a more 'user-friendly', less technical vocabulary. There is preliminary working beginning on this currently; but we are unlike to begin in earnest until 2021.  See: FAQ: (Coming next) 1]

[3] The commonest use of the PIE Abacus is to gather the collective view of whole teams, as the Pizazz on paper does.  But there is also the option to have individuals contributing their views, as 'users' in their own right.  For times where this may be useful, see: FAQ: Why have individuals as 'contributors' at all?: HERE



Background reading/viewing

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

For applications in particular settings, see:

The PIE Abacus – in medium to large agencies HERE

The PIE Abacus – in local practice networksHERE

The PIE Abacus – in smaller 'stand alone' services HERE

The PIE Abacus – in research : HERE

The PIE Abacus – in communities of practiceHERE

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

The PIE Abacus – with services using PIEs1HER





Costs and sustainabilityHERE

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