VSJ – November 2000 – Work in Progress

A couple of months ago, we mentioned briefly a new systems analysis method being developed by David Deeks, MSc, FIAP at Sunderland University. Quite a few members have expressed an interest, so here he describes it in more detail.


PISO is really a stripped-down ‘diy’ version of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) with a high success rate – and as well as being used on its own it has been applied within ‘bogged-down’ BPR projects with pretty radical positive results reported.

PISO uses established dataflow diagram techniques – and in particular dfd logicalisation – but in a new way to allow the strategic objectives of an organisation to engage with the logicalisation process. It is an approach that I initially developed simply to help part-time business students appreciate how useful systems analysis techniques can be in sorting out problems and inefficiencies in their day-to-day jobs. It has now taken on a life of its own, and been formally developed into a full-blown method, as a result of many of these students reporting extremely positive results back at their places of work. Almost 300 students have applied PISO in some way now, and the vast majority report positive outcomes. Even the ‘negative’ ones usually boil down to the fact that PISO showed, before any significant investment had been made, that re-engineering would not be viable.

At Pinderfield and Pontefract Hospitals Trust IT Training Officer Angela Dixon was able to develop an approach to direct access for GPs to book operating theatre slots – with a significant reduction in waiting times for patients. The original system involved nine personnel, carrying out thirteen high-level processes, covering both the GP practice and the hospital. After PISO only two personnel and two equivalent processes were needed. See figures 1 and 2.

A large insurance company claims another PISO success – officially adopting PISO for all future changes, after successfully reorganising their customer service facility so that the telephone is always answered within 2 rings instead of an average 45 seconds hitherto. Other examples include substantial cost savings on a motor manufacturing line, significant timesaving in a large bank’s credit card applications, and a vast amount saved in scheduling a railway. In another instance, an initial small study by two HND Business students developed into a major restructuring for the large international organisation that they worked for. There are many more examples – the following are typical quotes from reports written by part-time University of Sunderland students (MSc, degree and HND) who have used PISO in their workplace during the last year or so.

Graeme Lupton – employed by IBM, Rank Xerox and consultant to North East Powder Coatings:

‘In seventeen years of IT business services, I have never seen nor used a method, paradigm nor business solution as effective, conclusive and sorry, simple, as the PISO method.’

Sean Stephenson – Freeman Hospital:

‘I think the most important aspect of PISO is its flexibility. The approach can be applied to any process, not only administrative. The technique provides multiple solutions that can then be discussed with stakeholders to decide which is most acceptable.’

Martin McTavy – ViaSystems:

‘The main objectives of the redesign were easily met. My own personal gain has been the ability to take apart a process system and then streamline and reconstruct it into a more user friendly and efficient system.’

The PISO method can be taught to anyone with a basic understanding of their own business, in 12 hours or less. All of the above projects were undertaken by University of Sunderland students from HND to Masters level, taught for 6-12 hours.

It is intended that a PISO book will be written (several publishers have shown an interest) and a CASE tool developed. A video is also underway.

The University of Sunderland has the copyright for PISO and is now seeking to formally license its use. A number of large organisations is showing an interest in this (in particular those who attended the pilot seminar) and collaboration and licensing agreements are currently being developed.

We are also developing a seminar programme – a pilot one-day session in July was attended by representatives from a number of organisations and was well received.

For more details, or if you may be interested in attending a PISO seminar (we are currently seeking to gauge interest before we set some dates), please contact Graeme Young at The Industry Centre: graeme.young@sunderland.ac.uk or tel 0191 5152666 – or you’re welcome to email me: david.deeks@sunderland.ac.uk or ring for a chat on 0191 5152666 or 5152777.

[Involved in an interesting project? Email eo@iap.org.uk with the details.]

Fig 1 : Pinderfield and Pontefract example – system BEFORE PISO

Fig 2 : Pinderfield and Pontefract example AFTER PISO

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