The Placement Engineering Model: How To Augment Internal Staff with an MSP

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Over the last 12-15 months, staffing conversations have taken a turn that not many people expected, especially staffing of technology resources. It moved from “we have outgrown our internal resources” to “we can’t even find internal resources and because of that, we simply can’t meet our support demand”. More than that, even when retention wasn’t an issue, some organizations are seeing growth they’ve never seen before, and it’s time to re-evaluate and ask “Is IT something we must have internally, or is there a better option for the dollars we are going to spend on internal talent?”  


The Problem 

Years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Five Nines crafted and implemented the Placement Engineering Model. Placement accounts have grown to represent over 25% of our current partnerships. We’ve learned how to help clients and prospects evaluate their internal IT, assess the implications and challenges of the current labor market and its impact on hiring, and lay out the benefits of the structure of this model.  

As leaders, owners, and managers of organizations, right now we are all facing a common issue: staffing our teams or providing the best solution through outsourcing so we can deliver day-to-day support. Historically, pandemic aside, the truth is that IT individuals are extremely difficult to hire, manage, and retain. They simply operate on a different level than most individuals and have different expectations. That challenge really pushed a lot of organizations to ask the big question: “Do I want to be accountable for managing internal IT talent?” For a long time, there wasn’t really a great alternative.  

While that problem was unsolved, simultaneously three main considerations started to grow in frequency when it came to organizations trying to keep internal talent. Those three considerations started to drive a lot of behaviors and investments over the years:  


  • Attract. How do we attract good talent that is either entering the labor market or that is currently at a competitor? What differentiates us enough to get them to come to our organization instead of staying where they are? More importantly, what are we able and willing to spend on advertising ourselves and paying those engineers competitively for coming to our team?  
  • Train. Once we have someone, how are we training them? Is there talent on our internal team that can take them under their wing? Who has the technical capacity and leadership qualities we want our new talent to learn from? Do we have the capacity to dedicate a resource to training and have enough bandwidth that we can take that engineer out of queue so they can learn?  
  • Retain. How do we keep our talent here once we get them? What growth opportunities do we provide? Are they able to keep a work/life balance?  


Those three issues outside of the pandemic and labor market were difficult and expensive enough to find answers for. But now, we must take the current labor market into consideration, and the basic truth is attracting, training, and retaining IT talent in Nebraska is going to get way more expensive and harder to do. When you look specifically at Nebraska, you really start to understand why more companies are realizing they need to find a different solution to providing support that includes someone on site but does not include the HR burden of the 3 above considerations.  


The Five Nines Solution 

This is where the Placement Engineering Model comes in. When we go back to the original issue, four use cases for this model come to mind:  

  1. I want to outsource, but I don’t want to lose the experience of having someone onsite  
  2. I need someone onsite, but I can’t find or retain talent  
  3. I have an IT team but lack the capacity to deliver day-to-day support  
  4. We have outgrown our current solution but don’t know if we can compete in the current labor market  


All of our partnerships at Five Nines start with the same structure – we want to provide support for all aspects of IT but don’t want to assign one person to your environment and leave them on an island unsupported. We believe in functional teams and preparing for the HR aspects of things like PTO, turnover, and growth.  

While all Managed Service Providers include a help desk, that is not what makes Five Nines special – the structure of our team is. With a partnership, you are assigned a Team Lead, Primary Engineer, Field Engineers, Director of Service, and Account Director, all while still being able to contact the Tier 1 Engineers. Each of these roles has dedicated responsibilities to your environment, but are also assigned to other clients. The Placement Engineer’s job is meant to be an extension of the Support Desk. While our Support Desk Engineers field calls from all clients, the Placement’s only focus is your environment. They work onsite at your location, work to engrain themselves into your processes and culture, and if this person grows into a new position within Five Nines or decides to seek another opportunity, it is our responsibility to replace them.  


If you’re interested in learning more or exploring a Placement partnership with Five Nines, please contact us today.