November 14, 2018

Embedding customer stewardship in infrastructure

Customer stewardship matters because infrastructure is an intimate part of nearly every aspect of our lives, therefore quality of services and astute long-term investment decisions have never been more important

The following article is written by and extracted from The University Sydney’s Better Infrastructure Initiative’s latest paper Customer stewardship:  infrastructure’s missing link.

The quality of a community’s assets and services – schools, hospitals, roads, water, power and waste – together have a profound impact on life defining decisions: where we live, what jobs we do and how we connect with our community and friends.

Infrastructure now has an even bigger role in shaping the future quality of life for our children and grandchildren.

Big thinking

Customer stewardship in infrastructure challenges all stakeholders to much broader thinking and to finding more enduring answers to our economic problems. These answers are more likely to be found in the fertile soil of building relationships, which reinforce growth through reciprocity and are sustained with a commitment to participation first.

No jurisdiction should tolerate an absence of customer stewardship from its infrastructure. The challenge of implementing it is neither technical nor engineered in its nature. Instead, it demands cultural change powered by governance reform where governments enable owners and operators to interact with customers to inform decisions about the types of services they need and prefer.

The Better Infrastructure Initiative (BII) has intensified the development of a framework for customer stewardship since it was first outlined in Policy Outlook Paper No. 4, Building a national consensus – why customer stewardship matters.


Customer stewardship: infrastructure’s missing link, has benefited from deep collaboration with the industry to develop and pilot much-needed tools like the customer stewardship Five Pillars Blueprint and Compass. These can help owners and operators to create the right capabilities and navigational skills to prepare for and get underway on their customer stewardship journey, or voyage as it were.

Embedding a customer stewardship ethos into every aspect of the infrastructure life cycle is BII’s goal. However, it can only be achieved through a long-term process of cultural change supported with better regulation and market design that consistently rewards collaborative quality outcomes.


Australia is, and will most likely continue to be, a big and world-leading spender on infrastructure. As such, it has a great deal to gain by embracing customer stewardship and staying closely aligned with customers and communities, as this will deliver major project benefits sooner, and with less capital.

First-class infrastructure governance standards have yet to turn towards the reforms that can benefit services, customers and community. Technical engineering and financing considerations remain dominant and are centred on the physical aspects of infrastructure as an asset, rather than delivering the right long-term service outcomes, which for customers too often are left to chance.

Download the Customer stewardship: infrastructure’s missing link paper to view the Five Pillars Blueprint and Compass.

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