NB: this is an excerpt from The origins of the PIE iAbacus, one of the chapters in the PIEs assessment trining for PIE leads. The full training course will be available as soon as possible.


PPP 4e:  Origins of the PIE Abacus in education     Timing 6 minutes

The PIE iAbacus builds upon pre-existing software, called the IAbacus. This software was developed originally for schools. But as we will see, it is very suitable to our own needs, in their approach to assessment, and in the way they took key good practice principles and made of them an assessment process that is easy to follow.

But just as important – the iAbacus is very suited to PIEs, in attitude.

We have found, in discussions with the iAbacus team, that we share common values; a common analysis of what goes awry in many organisations – or in a whole sector - where the power to assess how you are doing is externalised, through inspection regimes that terrify as much as they support;.

And we came across their approach, when looking around for examples of self-assessment processes, that looked at grounding of future progress and action in the views, experiences and suggestions for improvement of the staff team, rather than simply waiting for an official verdict.

So we have worked with the iAbacus team and especially the developers, John Pearce and Dan O’Brian, over a period of several years to adapt this original software platform to suit the needs of the homelessness and complex needs sector.

And the shift from what was inspirational to what was observable as evidence was one of the key motivations behind the development of PIEs 2.

In a string of videos on their website - https://www.iabacus.co.uk/ -  John and Dan outline the strengths of the Abacus approach, and the versatility and power of the software that they have developed.


Note that all the videos shown here, and all the examples of the iAbacus in action,  refer to the iAbacus’ original use in the education sector, whether for individual schools, or for networks, with multi-school academy trusts (MATs) .

It will take some time for all this to be translated into the language and the issues that arise in our own work, in homelessness, complex needs, risk and exclusion. But in the meantime, their videos, for the education sector, give a very good sense of how we make this software work for us.

Their collection of instruction videos starts with a very succinct (1 minute) summary of how the software works, to in-put your judgements and discussions, in a way that – with one exception - exactly matches the Pizazz on paper.

Apart from the data being on screen and entered with keyboard, rather than on paper and with pen, this process will be immediately familiar to those who have started already with the Pizazz on paper – or even if you simply looked through it.

(If you have already started there, and have your data to hand, you can simply transfer it from paper to screen; but there are further advantages to this on-screen approach, for service user in-put, which we will return to later in this section)

The Abacus self improvement cycle: https://www.iabacus.co.uk/model/

 Note however the one exception, where the iAbacus and the Pizazz and PIE Abacus differ. Schools face regular, statutory inspection, with a schools inspectorate (in the UK, this is OFSTED) . Some other services, such as health and care services, also face inspections (in the UK, the CQC)

For PIEs, we have no external body to officially assess the service, and no mandatory hierarchy of authoritative official judgement. So we have been free to add instead a more democratic accountability to a community of practice – a horizontal feedback and accountability stage – peer review. See; What we have to do for for ourselves: HERE.

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


Overall (condensed summary), see:

The PIE iAbacus – an on-line version of the Pizazz, HERE.


For applications in particular settings, see:

 The PIE iAbacus – in medium to large agencies, HERE.

The PIE iAbacus – in local practice networks, HERE.

The PIE iAbacus – in small and local services, HERE.

The PIE iAbacus – in research and communities of practice, HERE.

The PIE iAbacus – in service user-led assessments, HERE.

The PIE iAbacus – with services using PIEs1, HERE.



Levels One and Two: 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 iAbacus: HERE.

Customising the PIE iAbacus: HERE