How IBM and SAP’s Cognitive Field Service is Maximising the Performance of Field Service Technicians


With digital transformation still very much big news across all industries, IBM is teaming up with SAP to help field service companies accelerate their own evolutions.

IBM was formed in 1911 when four technology companies merged into the Computer-Tabulating-Recording-Company. The company produced a range of equipment including commercial scales and industrial time recorders, meat and cheese slicers, tabulators and punch cards. The name was changed to International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924, after which most of the company’s subsidiaries were brought under that one name. In 1964 IBM announced the first computer system family to allow for hardware upgrades, the IBM System/360.

Today IBM is one of the world’s largest information technology companies and employs nearly 400,000 people. The New York based business has revenues of $79,139 million, which places it at #34 on the Fortune 500.

Digital Transformation

One of the issues many companies face when looking at starting their own digital transformation, is that, from the bottom, it can seem like an awfully big mountain to climb. It’s true that digital transformation can be a mammoth undertaking for even a moderately sized company, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

Effective and productive digital transformation requires a clear roadmap to begin, with the goal of making those systems and processes with the most direct impact on overall customer experience function more efficiently.

One of the biggest issues in the field service industry is, traditionally, when a company requires the attendance of an engineer, either due to planned maintenance or an unexpected fault or breakdown, it can involve rather outdated and cumbersome processes.

Work orders would have to be manually entered and prioritized in a service management system. Technicians would then need to attend the site to diagnose any issues, after which they would have to complete the relevant paperwork and order/replenish spare parts. There would also often be a disconnect between billing and invoicing which can delay cash flow through the business.

All these factors conspire to consume time and money and increase the possibility for costly errors to occur.

Cognitive Field Services

It is with these challenges in mind that IBM and SAP got together to develop industry-specific accelerators designed to reduce maintenance and service costs, and inefficiencies, while maximizing the performance of field service technicians.

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Dubbed Cognitive Field Services, the new solution from these two industry powerhouses can analyze real-time operational data and apply it to supporting optimal planning and scheduling. It makes sure field service technicians always have access to the correct information and can update work orders digitally, reducing the chance for administrative errors or delays.

“For example, a technician receiving a work order would receive a better recommendation on what they need to specifically repair,” said SAP in a press release. “After making necessary changes, they can then document how the issue was resolved and close the work order. Over time, the data collected from the technician’s use improves how precise the recommendations are over time, better preparing them to fix it on the first visit.”

The platform is built on a combination of existing innovative solutions developed by IBM and SAP, including SAP Leonardo, SAP Cloud Platform, and SAP Hybris solutions, as well as IBM Cognitive Advisors and Services, which all work together with the SAP S/4HANA business suite solution to achieve its goals, and the goals of its customers.

Final Thoughts

Designed from the ground up to address the whole life cycle of after-market service process, the Cognitive Field Services platform can lead to higher margins, increased revenue, improved customer experience, and a more efficient workforce. Field service contracts can be won or lost based entirely on a company’s ability to respond to the needs of their clients effectively, with agility, and with the minimum possible chance of costly delays or errors.

“By offering complementary sets of capabilities and industry-specific solutions, IM&C clients can schedule maintenance accordingly and field technicians can maximize their performance,” said SAP. “By optimizing the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), businesses can increase customer satisfaction, and proactive spare part sales based on CFS recommendations means additional revenue growth and more opportunities to upsell and cross sell.”

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