Service Desk vs Primary Engineer Model

If you have looked to outsource your IT needs in recent years the words, "Service Desk" or "Primary Engineer" have probably come up. What do they really mean and what is the difference?

The Service Desk can be defined as - The single point of contact between users and IT service management. Or more simply put the individual on the other end of the phone when you call the designated phone number. Typically a Service Desk team is made up of tier-one support engineers who will do their best to complete your request within a given time frame. If they are unsuccessful at solving your issue they will then push you up to a tier two individual, and so on until your request meets the corresponding tier to provide a resolution.

A Primary Engineering model takes a more strategic approach to providing IT support. A company is typically matched with a team of one or two tier two-level support engineers, based on their industry, needs, culture, and support requirements. The primary engineer(s) are available 24x7 to handle anything that may come up in the company's environment. Typically the engineer(s) are assigned to a select few accounts that they then become responsible for their overall success and most of the time become a part of their client's team and organization.

How do you choose one over the other? Well, that’s for you to decide but here are a few key factors to consider:



Service Desk Model:

  1. Typically, the lower cost option.
  2. Layered approach, resulting in depersonalized interactions.
  3. Rigid time constraints or SLAs to dictate the urgency of the request which the customer conforms to.
  4. Focus on the individual "issue" or "ticket" at hand, little thought goes into the holistic view of the environment.
  5. High internal priority placed on efficiency & task execution & ticket closure, rather than root cause identification or problem prevention.


Primary Engineer Model:

  1. Personalized & intentional service, wrapped around the culture & personalities of the customers’ organization.
  2. Efficiencies are gained with time through the familiarity with people, processes & workflows in a customer's environment.
  3. The focus is placed on the "intangible" parts of service rather than what can happen behind a keyboard, including:
    1. Flexibility to understand, define, & quantify implications of the "problem" and recommend a solution that aligns with the company's goals.
    2. Work is driven by the urgency or needs of the client, not the availability of the team.
    3. Intimate environment context to help bridge communication gaps between the server room & the board room.
    4. A strong understanding of the company culture as the engineer(s) becomes a part of the company's team. They may even attend a Holiday Party or two.
  4. The model inherently instills accountability, ownership, and a sense of pride by its nature.  Once the customer's account is assigned to an engineer, it is truly theirs.  The success/failure of a partnership is a reflection of their ability to meet their goals and align for future success which prevents complacency and drives their best interest, not the managed service providers.


To learn more about Five Nines model, click here: