To explore the utility of surrogates in biodiversity conservation-focused monitoring programmes, we held a workshop in August 2017. This workshop brought together academics, and government and non-government practitioners from Australia and New Zealand. The workshop consisted of a pre-workshop survey, practitioner conceptualizations of monitoring programmes during the workshop and a post-workshop semi-structured phone interview. The event was a collaborative experience where participants shared their understanding of, and experiences in developing and using biodiversity surrogates (see Foster et al., 2019). The workshop yielded real-world perspectives on the use of biodiversity surrogates; perspectives that have largely been lacking in the field of surrogate ecology (Caro, 2010). We note that these perspectives stem from practitioners making decisions about the planning and on-ground monitoring of biodiversity, and that these decisions are at the final end of a decision chain that falls within a broader political and value-driven context defined by institutional managers and government policy. Here, we focus on reporting the perspectives arising from the workshop, to bridge the gap between research and effective practice of surrogacy in biodiversity monitoring and conservation. Through understanding the perceived extent and factors influencing surrogate use in biodiversity monitoring programmes, we identify six problems limiting the identification and implementation of surrogates, and make operationally focused recommendations for improving surrogate use in monitoring programmes.