The intelligent client capability framework

The Intelligent Client Capability Framework has been produced by the Capacity Building Panel of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and extends on the previously published ICE Competency Framework to provide a guide to members who find themselves working in a client capacity.


The capability of the client and its relationship with stakeholders, both the sponsor organisation and the supply chain, has a direct effect on the achievement of efficient and sustainable outcomes. Intelligent Clients are therefore firmly at the centre of efficient, productive, value-for-money relationships with the sponsor and supply chain. While it is recognised that varying operating and delivery models impact the breadth and depth of the required client capability, the term ‘Intelligent Client’ crucially refers to the capability and capacity to manage the process of translating policy into outcomes.  

Intelligent Client responsibility and relationships

The Framework

The Intelligent Client Capability Framework outlines client capability in seven key areas and breaks these down into the individual capabilities that have the potential for development in
support of the delivery of major project or programme outcomes. The purpose of the framework is to provide a guide for members who find themselves working in a ‘client’ capacity.

Infrastructure UK’s Improving Infrastructure Delivery: Project Initiation Routemap Handbook (IUK 2014) was developed to support successful development by clients of major economic infrastructure. The Framework incorporates the principles used in the Handbook and provides a structured means of self-assessment, helping members to reflect on their own practice and identify areas for development and the incorporation of best practice.


The seven key capability areas

The Framework also builds on the ICE Competency Framework (ICE 2011) by providing role-specific guidance and therefore should be considered as one aspect of continuing professional development. It is not a performance assessment, a recruitment tool, or an official standard. Rather, it is a systematic means of identifying areas for capability enhancement for individuals who are undertaking the role of the client. This is achieved through the consideration of the issues associated with the role during project or programme initiation, procurement and delivery including:

• adequately testing the business case;
• providing continuity of investment funding;
• accurately translating and communicating the high level requirements to key stakeholders;
• ensuring maximum value is derived from all relationships;
• supporting those relationships with responsible and effective governance arrangements and appropriate interface management; and
• articulating the nature and shape of the organisation required to deliver.

How to use the Capability Framework

The self-assessment is completed through reflection on the capability indicators detailed under the seven capability areas listed above. For each indicator, the user should:

1. consider whether the attribute is core to their role in the client function or whether it is not necessary given the specifics of the project or programme (if deemed not necessary, continue to next indicator);

2. reflect on whether they are effectively managing or applying the attribute and the implications for the project or programme should that capability not be fully exploited;

3. identify areas for continued exploitation or improvement.