Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland harnesses Microsoft technology to distribute more than £100 million of emergency funding to save creative industries during the pandemic.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, Creative Scotland has distributed in excess of £100m in emergency funds via 24 online funds. More than 14,000 grants have been awarded, to both individuals and organisations, which is 3 times the volume of awards we would make in a ‘normal’ year. We would not have been able to meet this demand during Covid-19 without the support of Incremental.”

Gordon Barnes, Head of Digital, Creative Scotland

With the support of Incremental, Creative Scotland was able to harness Microsoft Dynamics 365, Power Platform and Azure to deliver emergency funding awards totalling more than £100 million, ensuring the survival of many creative industries in Scotland.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the creative industries was unprecedented. Creative Scotland experienced record-breaking emergency funding applications from businesses and individuals across the industry who were unlikely to survive lockdown without the support of funding.

 

Creative Scotland is a public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across Scotland. Creative Scotland distributes funding for the creative industries from two primary sources, the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. Creative Scotland’s digital transformation journey was dramatically accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, as demand for emergency funding sky-rocketed.

“Incremental’s capability extends far beyond Dynamics. The breadth of services and knowledge available has enabled us to partner with Incremental, as needed, across the entire Microsoft stack.”

Gordon Barnes, Head of Digital, Creative Scotland.

Covid-19 dramatically accelerated the need for digital enablement

Before the pandemic hit, Creative Scotland was in a good position to function with remote teams with certain processes moved to the cloud and Microsoft Teams already established. However, addressing the projected increase of funding applications and customer enquiries caused by Covid-19, with a very tight turn around, was a clear challenge.

Funding management 

All funding applications submitted to Creative Scotland are managed through the organisation’s internal systems. Funding applications go through various stages of approval and require a contract to be issued to the funding applicant. Back-end processes relied on manual intervention, making it slow and cumbersome.

During Covid-19 it became a strategic requirement to automate processes as demand increased rapidly. Creative Scotland was under pressure to quickly process hundreds of funding contracts to support people and businesses across Scotland.

Gordon Barnes, Head of Digital at Creative Scotland explained, “Large sums of money needed to be processed and distributed to people quickly for Covid relief. What we would have spent several months developing, was needed within a week. That was the scale of change required.”

Creative Scotland did not have the human capacity to manually meet the increased demand. To ensure funding could be processed and distributed in the timescales required, it needed to elevate its use of the Power Platform and fully digitise its funding process.

Enquiries service

As funding applications accelerated during Covid-19, so did the volume of enquiries. Enquiries submitted to Creative Scotland through its website were particularly heightened when key funding announcements were made, such as the opening of a new fund.

Creative Scotland relied on an email mailbox for its enquiry process. The enquiries team were unable to have a clear view of the customer’s previous interactions with Creative Scotland nor access more detailed valuable reporting on the volume of or topics of enquiries that were coming into the organisation.

Utilising an email mailbox required extensive manual input from the enquiries team, which was particularly overwhelming during Covid-19 restrictions. Creative Scotland wanted to move from an email mailbox to Dynamics 365 and required a trusted partner to ensure Dynamics 365’s Customer Service module was deployed to its specifications and integration with the wider instance was seamless.

“Large sums of money needed to be processed and distributed to people quickly for Covid relief. What we would have spent several months developing, was needed within a week. That was the scale of change required.”

The Microsoft ecosystem

Power Platform optimises funding management 

To manage funding applications, Creative Scotland required an automated workflow process, integrated with Dynamics 365, to trigger the generation and sending of personalised electronic contracts to successful funding applicants. Once the contract was electronically signed, it needed to be fed back into the workflow to be checked and sent onward for payment.

Incremental helped Creative Scotland to understand what solutions would be best suited to its requirements and working with the in-house team, supported the build of a Power Automate workflow for contracts management. Incremental implemented and configured an e-sign feature that automated the entire processes, saving time and eliminating manual, human input.

Gordon Barnes, Head of Digital, Creative Scotland said, “What has been key, and can be said for every Incremental colleague we worked with, was their ability to make suggestions, challenge ways of thinking plus crucially, provide workarounds quickly and efficiently.”

Dynamics 365 Customer Service provides 360-degree view

Incremental brought its wealth of experience and expertise of Dynamics 365 to implement Customer Service for Creative Scotland, tailoring configuration to the organisation’s requirements. Dynamics 365 provides Creative Scotland with a 360-degree view of the customer. Instead of trawling through an email mailbox, enquiry agents can now view the enquirers history of interactions and other helpful information, for example whether they have submitted a funding application. Bespoke views enable the organisation to access trend data.

On the delivery project experience, Karen Clarkson, Smarter Working Workstream Delivery Lead at Creative Scotland said, “When we incurred bumps along the way, Incremental was able to pivot and offer us options, advising on how best to utilise features and adapt elements to integrate well with other areas of the organisation.” Discussing the partnership, Karen Clarkson said, “With Incremental, not only did we have access to an expert development team, but the client relationship piece was also very well managed. We had a dedicated project manager and everyone we worked with was very responsive, ensuring we were connected with the correct person quickly and efficiently.”

“What has been key, and can be said for every Incremental colleague we worked with, was their ability to make suggestions, challenge ways of thinking plus crucially, provide workarounds quickly and efficiently.”

Microsoft technology enables Creative Scotland to provide Covid-19 relief to thousands

Funding management 

Automation of the funding system fulfilled Creative Scotland’s long-term need to permanently modernise this key process and enabled Creative Scotland to manage the urgent short-term demand for Covid-19 relief funding. Gordon Barnes, Head of Digital, explained: “The funding contract piece has undeniably been a success. Without the system, we just couldn’t have sent out 100s of funding contracts in a short space of time. The priority was speed, and to get much needed money into people’s accounts. Working with Incremental made that possible.”

Dynamics 365 Customer Service 

Dynamics 365 has afforded agents on the front-line invaluable views of the customer. In terms of reporting, Creative Scotland can now accurately track enquiries by source and by type and access analysis which can be reported back to the organisation. The ability to identify trends and measure performance is incredibly valuable. Karen Clarkson, Smarter Working Workstream Delivery Lead at Creative Scotland said, “From a process and end-user experience perspective, Dynamics 365 Customer Service is making a huge positive impact on our service provision.”

Alongside the projects discussed, Incremental has supported Creative Scotland in streamlining its Microsoft Azure Cloud environment, retrospectively analysing the infrastructure quickly established during Covid-19 and providing best practice guidance on how the environment could be improved and optimised in the long-term. Incremental has also designed and built a Power App that enables Creative Scotland to standardise the funding application panel process, making it less manual and more efficient.

“The funding contract piece has undeniably been a success. Without the system, we just couldn’t have sent out 100s funding contracts in a short space of time. The priority was speed, and to get much needed money into people’s accounts. Working with Incremental made that possible.”

Creative Scotland builds upon the Microsoft stack

Looking to the future, Creative Scotland will be extending its Dynamics 365 Customer Service capabilities with Incremental in order to utilise features such as knowledge-base. The funding contracts management system is also being permanently engineered into products across Creative Scotland, to support automated processes for years to come.

When discussing the decision to partner with Incremental, Gordon Barnes, Head of Digital at Creative Scotland said: “The other partner we had initial discussions with could not have offered the same breadth of knowledge and expertise. Incremental has definitely been the right choice.”

“The other partner we had initial discussions with could not have offered the same breadth of knowledge and expertise. Incremental has definitely been the right choice.”

Creative Scotland dancer
Creative Scotland singer

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