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Forget build or buy: compose!

By Kate Huggins |6.18.2021

With increased speed to value and improved sustainability of applications, enterprises and Government have much to gain from composing rather than constructing technology solutions.

However unique or innovative the digital application, solution, or business you want to create is, you can be sure many of the capabilities you need have already been built and are being offered as a service.

Why build payments, or identity, or chat, or appointment booking functionality from scratch when you can compose with them? It’s now even possible to compose regulated banking and insurance services like lending using platforms like Lendflow.

Gartner coined the term ‘Composable Enterprise’ in 2019 to describe ‘the assembly and combination of packaged capabilities that are application building blocks that have been purchased or developed’. Well before this, we saw software start-ups and scale-ups embrace platforms and composability. 

Traditional enterprises and Government organisations are taking longer to catch on. Legacy systems and processes, scarce engineering and data science resources, budgets with a fat CapEx line item for digitisation but no OpEx, and procurement functions that see small vendors as inherently risky, have all made the promise of composability feel like a distant dream.

Enterprises and Government have much to gain from composing rather than constructing. They stand to gain from increased speed to value and improved sustainability of applications and services.

How to successfully adopt a composer mindset to digital transformation:

Rethink budgeting approaches and procurement policies

A composer mindset must include Finance and Procurement. When it comes to budgeting, engage Finance teams in a holistic conversation about total cost, and avoid bifurcating budgets between CapEx and OpEx. 

The platforms offering the services you want to compose with tend to be new and are often regarded with caution by procurement functions. The higher risk is mitigated by low or no upfront costs, and by starting small and scaling fast. Make proof-of-value a procurement stage-gate and assess solutions not just based on how well they meet requirements, but on their modularity, scalability, and ease of integration. Finally, for those components it makes sense to build bespoke rather than consume as SaaS, insist they are designed for reuse and made accessible to the rest of the organisation as a composable capability.  

Help the business compose services using platforms

Businesses take huge strides with composability when IT empowers the business to build, and low / no-code developer platforms are a great way to do this. Low code platforms support composability and reusability at one level down from packaged capabilities. Templates, tools, and code libraries all help make intelligent applications easier to build, train, and deploy.

Two categories of platforms have emerged in recent years:

  1. Software developer platforms that help build complex process models, map database objects to user workflows, and customize UI design (think Outsystems, Appian,, Microsoft Power Apps)
  2. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning development platforms that help you to build and deploy complex data models using classification, regression, recommendations, natural language processing (NLP), and optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities (think Tensorflow,,, DataRobot).

While these distinct categories have emerged catering to the different disciplines of software development and data science, the increasing role of business users in composing intelligent applications should see the categories converge. Gartner recently predicted that 80% of technology products and services would be built outside of IT by 2025. Clear Dynamics is an example of an enterprise platform that combines AI with composability. The speed advantage to composability is significant.

Platform choices will depend on who is doing the composing and for what kinds of services. Some platforms are more open than others – your cloud strategy and technology stack will also have a bearing on your platform choices.

A big part of embracing platforms and composability is changing the dynamic between central IT functions and the business. Getting it right means the business can use platforms to compose services and IT becomes an enabler by supporting the health of the service ecosystem with a focus on security, scalability, and performance.