The Most Common False Choice in IT: The ‘Build vs. Buy’ Dilemma

Author Adam Glaser points towards a way out — low-code and automation. Read now to learn the key benefits of low-code and the best practices for vendor selection.
The Most Common False Choice in IT: The ‘Build vs. Buy’ Dilemma

When it comes to pursuing modernization initiatives, one of the first choices transformation teams face is also a false one — the “build vs. buy” conundrum that assumes a tradeoff must be made between building for flexibility, or buying for speed.

Thankfully, this dilemma disappears when automation and low-code are combined for drag-and-drop convenience and easy scalability.

Let us examine how speed and productivity soar and scaling is a snap when those closest to the business are empowered with automation combined with powerful low-code platforms that increase savings, slash technical debt, and free up more time for IT to develop new processes and value opportunities.

Solving the false choice of Build vs. Buy with low-code and automation

Organizations looking to digitally transform invariably find themselves facing the build vs. buy decision very early on. On the one hand, building systems and applications from scratch affords lots of flexibility but slow timelines, capitalization costs, and complexity are major obstacles.

On the other hand, organizations may feel stuck buying off-the-shelf solutions or overly simplistic no-code platforms that offer plenty of speed but have limited capabilities and flexibility to customize.

"This ‘need to choose’ is a false premise that can be overcome by combining low-code applications with automation."

This ‘need to choose’ is a false premise that can be overcome by combining low-code applications with automation. Enterprises can indeed have both speed and flexibility with a blend of low-code platforms to dramatically accelerate application development times and process automation to quickly scale these new capabilities and services.

When choosing this path, businesses can quickly build the kind of sophisticated enterprise-grade applications in several weeks that would otherwise take months to build. For instance, instead of making users write lines of code to create a flowchart, a low-code interface lets you simply draw it and the code is automatically written.

Scaling becomes easy with the help of automation embedded in low-code tooling for functions like robotic process automation (RPA) and digital process automation (DPA) to quickly expand and automate even the most highly complex processes.

These scenarios leverage low-code to create apps and workflows that orchestrate complex business rules and data; integrate with other systems; and schedule and automate processes.

My organization has applied this low-code approach to a range of use cases. These include helping a major insurance firm in the United Kingdom unify 22 different systems into a single platform for call center operations; creating an end-to-end workflow management tool for a Canadian telecommunications firm to maintain all build activities for its 5G network; and standing up a central administration hub for the U.S. Air Force to manage contracting documents from numerous suppliers.

Key low-code benefits,  and best practices for vendor selection

Low-code reduces IT backlog and makes it more seamless to integrate, update, and modify enterprise applications. This speeds development time and decreases technical debt so organizations can adapt and evolve more rapidly.

Applications built with low-code require far less maintenance and because the code is continually updated in the background, low-code platforms stay up to date with the latest technology and device standards. All updates are automatically passed on to the applications built on the platform.

Throughout, the most intuitive low-code platforms should include security features that automatically govern the applications running on them, and should integrate seamlessly into existing architectures on an extensible platform that allows for future growth and ongoing modernization of legacy systems.

A superior low-code platform will allow IT to deliver their applications to web and mobile users with no additional work or extra technology. This allows developers to build once and deploy everywhere – with any application built on the platform being also available as a native mobile app with no need for extra coding or resources.

Finally, look for low-code solution partners that remember to cover the human element. Low-code still requires some degree of training for users, so training should be available leveraging a wide variety of education options and standard-based certifications to validate knowledge and skills.

Ultimately, a modern low-code offering should be able to use these combined capabilities to demonstrate 10x or more speed improvements over normal development processes, while simultaneously slashing costs by half and maintaining superior functionality compared to traditional development.


The central goal of all digital transformation efforts is to evolve an organization to new levels of agility and value with data and operations. When it comes to fulfilling this objective, an approach that relies on a combination of process automation and low-code will eliminate the ‘false choice’ modernization teams face between buying for speed or building for flexibility.

The result is dramatically more effective, rapid, and scalable transformation technology applications.

About the author:

As one of Appian’s earliest employees, Adam Glaser built a career from entry-level to senior technology executive, leading the product team from startup through IPO and ultimately to industry leader in a crowded and well-funded market.

Under Glaser’s leadership, Appian Engineering has grown from 15 to 500 employees working on the low-code application platform, which allowed Appian to achieve multiple Gartner/Forrester leadership positions, 35%+ subscription revenue growth year-over-year, and a market cap of $5 billion.

With two decades of experience delivering enterprise web and mobile software, Adam is passionate about building, leading, and scaling high-performance software development with a strong emphasis on predictable delivery and effective go-to-market.

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