Coatings and thin films are capable of providing considerable savings over the use of bulk materials and have been the subject of extensive research effort over the last few decades. In an attempt to understand and utilise the mechanisms governing their deformation and failure, and controlling their in-service performance, this study describes the development of modelling tools capable of assessing whether a coating is likely to have the desired characteristics, in order to enhance performance, extend the component’s life, or to reduce cost; or conversely, to predict a more appropriate coating. This work describes the progress made using indentation techniques in combination with energy based work-of-indentation modelling. The approach covers all of the coated systems properties and combinations encountered in surface engineering practice, and is capable of dealing with fracture and plasticity dominated response, and also covers a mixed response often found in many engineering coatings. Work-of-indentation approach was applied to a wide range of systems, including sputtered metallic layers, electrolytically deposited and electroless coatings, and industrial hard ceramic films.