Blog Barista: Jessica Davis | May 8, 2019 | Web Development | Brew time: 5 min

So, let’s say that you have done your due diligence by researching the differences between COTS and custom software, and you are still on the fence. Now, what?

A COTS product has both advantages and disadvantages much like any custom software solution. However, what may work for one company, may not work for your company. The best approach to take when evaluating your options is to reflect on the internal needs of your organization. There should be several factors that you consider before making your final decision, including your business processes, operating environment, timelines, budget, risk tolerance and evolution. Despite the bottom line, the solution that your company chooses should depend on more than just one of these factors.

To help you further evaluate your options, we’ve developed a few questions surrounding each of these important factors. When answering each set of questions, remember to think about what your organization’s current needs, as well as any potential needs that may arise in the future.

Business Processes

  • Does your organization use industry-standard business processes?
  • If not, does your organization want a solution that supports your current processes or are you willing to change your processes to fit the software?
  • If processes must be changed, how much will it cost to get everyone trained and the appropriate documentation updated or created?
  • Will there be resistance to change that could compromise implementation success?

Operating Environment

  • What other systems does your organization currently use and how will they need to integrate with the new system?
  • Can the proposed solution truly integrate with those systems?
  • Is development required to create the necessary connections and, if so, how much will that cost?


  • Does your organization have a specific timetable for implementation?
  • What is driving the timetable?
  • Does all desired functionality have to be available at once, or can the initial production release contain core functionality that can be enhanced through a series of iterative updates?


  • Is your organization more concerned with up-front cost and cash flow or total cost of ownership?

Risk Tolerance

  • What happens if the COTS vendor goes out of business and your organization suddenly loses access to the COTS system or there is no way to make changes to the system?
  • What if the vendor demands a high fee to make necessary changes after the system is implemented?
  • What happens if changes in regulations require a significant change to your organization’s operating environment or business processes and the vendor cannot change the system in the required timeframe?
  • What if the underlying technology of the solution exposes your organization to security or operational vulnerabilities?
  • What happens if the vendor fails to meet the implementation timeline?
  • What happens if updates to an upstream or downstream system result in the inability to accurately record transactions?
  • Can the vendor mitigate these risks?


  • What is the likelihood that your business processes could change?
  • Would your organization like the ability to innovate and streamline business processes after implementation?

Your answers to these questions should provide some guidance during your initial research phase. We also recommend that you revisit this list again during the evaluation phase to ensure that your organization has a firm understanding of how it could be affected by both options. Just remember that regardless of your choice, the new system should make your organization’s business and operation processes more efficient and effective.


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