Problem Solving: Unveiling the Multiple Faces of the PIECES Framework

In a quest to prevent solving the wrong problem, numerous techniques like the cause and effect diagram and 5 Whys have been introduced. One problem solving framework that shouldn’t go without a mention is PIECES. What makes it so unique is that it can be applied to analysis at multiple levels to deliver different results, depending on how you apply it.

Projects are often born out of 3 major reasons: to solve a problem (real, suspected or anticipated), to exploit an opportunity and to fulfill a directive. Due to the diverse problems under the sun, James Wetherbe developed a framework for classifying problems known as PIECES. This framework provides a great starting point for analysts to understand the problems faced by organisations. PIECES can be used as:

1. A framework for classifying problems - Each letter of PIECES stands for:

P: The need to improve performance

I: The need to improve information (and data)

E: The need to improve economics, control costs or increase profits

C: The need to improve control or security

E: The need to improve efficiency of people and processes

S: The need to improve service to customers, suppliers, colleagues, partners, etc

The reality is that organizations face different kinds of problems, which may fall into multiple categories as stated above. Some problems are solved by improving a combination of situations. In the process of classifying problems, a project may be born. The PIECES framework can thus also be seen as a framework for identifying potential projects. 

The PIECES problem-solving checklist contains a comprehensive list of typical problems faced by organizations.

2. An excellent framework for classifying requirements - The PIECES framework can be applied to defining requirements. For example, non-functional requirements can be classified by focusing on the same categories: Performance, information, economics, security, efficiency and service.

The PIECES framework can also be used a checklist for ensuring that functional requirements are covered in the Requirements Specification Document. Testers in addition, can develop test cases focusing on the critical system aspects outlined by the PIECES framework.

The PIECES framework can be applied at any level of your project as a checklist for ensuring that all the critical requirements are addressed. 

Have you used the PIECES framework before? What has been your experience?