The Arts Council has offered to help other government agencies modernise and speed up their grants systems after it won the prestigious ICT Excellence award for the public service.
The Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Mary Hanafin, welcomed the news, and sent her congratulations to the Arts Council and all of those involved in the project.
The winning project, delivered in partnership with Deloitte, saw the Arts Council go from dealing manually with thousands of paper-based grant application sheets -- along with back-up material such as music, pictures and video - to onscreen, electronic applications. The move has speeded up by several weeks the processing of a grant, without compromising in any way on the agency's rigorous, independent assessment of the art work in question.
As a result, and in spite of a steady increase in applications from artists, the agency was able to make significant cost savings, and cope with a 20 percent staff reduction in 2010. The payments drawdown process has also gone online allowing grant recipients the ability to request their payment and track the progress of payments online.
Artists have embraced enthusiastically the new system, taking advantage of the fact that the Arts Council is now open for electronic business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The director of one major arts organisation, whose travel arrangements went awry due to the volcanic ash disruption, was still able to meet a key application deadline by logging on to the Arts Council and submitting key information using an iPhone.
Mary Hanafin, Minister for Toursim, Culture and Sport said "I would like to extend my congratulations to the Arts Council and to say that I share their sense of pride for this achievement. The Council has not only reduced its backoffice and administrative costs which is worthy of note but it has also managed at the same time to improve its service to its clients. This is an example of the smart economy in action and shows how creative solutions and teamwork can benefit everyone".
"From conception to 'go live', this project took just 12 months, transformed the level of service for artists, and made us significantly more efficient as a state body," said Aidan Burke, the Arts Council's Director of Operations.
Mr Burke said he was delighted with the award, and paid tribute to all of those who worked to make sure the shift to online services was a success.
"It was a massive team effort - the cornerstone of our success was the participation from all areas across the Arts Council," Mr Burke said. "I am very happy with what the team has achieved, and I'm proud to say I believe the project could be used as a benchmark for other state agencies. I'd be delighted to offer the benefit of our experience in particular to other grant-issuing agencies right across the public sector."
In its citation, the ITC Excellence Awards said: "The solution delivered to the Arts Council was executed using best in breed agile project delivery approaches and took advantage of technologies such as Cloud, open source and social media. A solution borne out of a fiscal imperative to deliver organizational cost savings and efficiencies, it has met all preordained objectives."