Blog Post Top 5 Updates to the Gartner 2021 SOAP Market Guide

Gartner recently released an update to the 2020 Service Orchestration and Automation Platform (SOAP) Market Guide that defined a new category in automation. Read on to learn just how much has changed in a little over a year.

Gartner 2021 Market Guide to Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAP)

Gartner’s inaugural SOAP Market Guide was a surprise hit when it was released in April 2020. This guide created an entirely new category to recognize the significant evolution of workload automation (WLA) into a new, more advanced offering. SOAPs go above and beyond the capabilities of traditional WLA to meet the needs of the new technologies being adopted by today’s enterprises – event-driven business models, cloud infrastructure, and big data workloads.  

But 2020 was nothing if not eventful. Since Gartner released that first SOAP Market Guide, we’ve seen significant transformation across all areas of life: societal, economic, political, and of course, technological… It’s no surprise the SOAP market underwent a big growth spurt in its first year of life.

What’s Changed in Gartner’s 2021 SOAP Market Guide

After carefully studying the 2020 and 2021 SOAP Market Guides, we identified a few of the most interesting updates:

1. Investments are soaring in cloud and edge deployments, as well as automation. SOAPs are a force multiplier for ROI.

Cloud and edge come up as the number one investment priority for I&O leaders surveyed by Gartner: over 60% said they plan to invest in automation to support platform-as-a-service, Kubernetes, IoT, infrastructure-as-a-service, or software-as-a-service in the next year.

Gartner sees SOAPs as a force multiplier for ROI, enabling automation across the hybrid IT environments created by these investments.

As a side note, automation and cloud adoption also top the list of cost optimization tactics used by I&O leaders in the survey. It’s no coincidence that these two are so closely tied together.

2. Maturing from automation delivery to orchestrated delivery is imperative to success.

WLA is a mature market that’s being transformed by SOAPs. According to Gartner, maturing your own automation delivery into orchestration delivery weights success in your favor.

Why is this maturation so important? Traditional WLA simply can’t keep up with digitalization initiatives that weave a complex web of on-prem, cloud, edge, IoT, and hybrid IT deployments. Only a modern SOAP can efficiently scale automation across this new landscape of platforms and applications, which live in any environment… and do so in real-time.

3. SOAPs expand automation initiatives into best-of-breed solution areas.

Within the report, Gartner shares the image below (reference: Expand Automation Initiatives). SOAP is categorized in the Business Service automation section, which illustrates that it’s used to orchestrate automated processes within the IT Service Automation and IT Task Automation categories. The report specifically discusses how SOAPs do not replicate functionalities in the other categories. Rather, SOAPs are complementary to the tools in these categories. A SOAP’s inbuilt scheduling, “as-code” functionality, ability to integrate and control third party tools, and workflow capabilities make it capable of amplifying the business benefits of best-of-breed tools.

4. SOAPs gather telemetry and offer observability for IT organizations.

Observability is everywhere these days — most notably atop the peak of expectations in Gartner’s 2021 Hype Cycle for I&O Automation report. It also makes an appearance in the 2021 SOAP Market Guide, giving SOAPs well-deserved recognition for their ability to gather telemetry across the business.

SOAPs collect log information for automated processes, helping enterprises to gain visibility into all automated processes. As enterprises do more to arm their employees with self-service automation, gathering telemetry about scope and use is critical to both governance and compliance.

For example, SOAP observability serves well in supporting the continuous improvement of self-service automations to business users. Gartner recognizes that there’s more to self-service than simply handing it off to the business. It’s important to maintain visibility into how the automation is being used to continuously improve efficiencies and manage the lifecycle of the automation.

With this kind of visibility, IT teams can monitor processes, ensure compliance and resilience, and seek opportunities to expand user-created automations across the business.

5. End-user confusion between SOAP and RPA is addressed.

This year’s report clearly differentiates SOAP from Robotic Process Automation (RPA). With a litany of IT automation tools out there, it easy to see how these two types of automation would be confused.

At their core, Gartner defines each in the following way:

  • SOAPs are commonly used to automate batch jobs, trigger event-driven workflows or AI-driven actions.
  • RPA tools are commonly used to automate routine and repetitive data entry tasks.

While the two technologies are different, a SOAP can add if-this-then-that business logic to RPA’s highly repetitive task automation. When used together, enterprises can execute fully automated, end-to-end process workflows.

What Hasn’t Changed in Gartner’s 2021 SOAP Market Guide

SOAPs help I&O leaders maximize their business value from automation initiatives. It’s a clear evolution from traditional WLA tools. While the use cases continue to evolve with market needs, SOAPs are widely used to help enterprises automate processes that span any environment. The below quote remained consistent between last year and this year. We think it does a good job of summarizing the central theme of the report.

Infrastructure and operations leaders must use platforms for service orchestration and automation to deliver customer-focused agility as part of their cloud, big data and DevOps initiatives.” – Gartner 2021 SOAP Market Guide

Ready to learn more? Click here to read Gartner’s 2021 SOAP Market Guide.


“Gartner, Market Guide for Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms," Chris Saunderson, Manjunath Bhat, Daniel Betts, Hassan Ennaciri, August 10, 2021. The graphics displayed above were published by Gartner, Inc. as part of the Gartner 2021 SOAP Market Guide and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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