COTS (Commercial-of-the-shelf) or ready made products are systems which have been deployed already and proven solution that works properly. While customized software means a group of experts (Business Analysts, Solution Architects, Software Developers, etc.) have to work hard and develop a system as per your requirements. Also, this means that you have to bring on working procedures, while COTS usually brings them within the overall solution.
Pros and cons:
• You have to have in mind that COTS solution may not fully comply with your internal procedures. If so, you have to adopt procedures to COTS or vice-versa. While usually COTS as proven solutions includes valuable procedures people choose adopting procedures to COTS as the most efficient decision. But, not always procedures within the COTS are suitable for a specific organization. In this case, COTS has to be adopted to procedures. However, both points are doable and right decision depends on specific circumstances.
• You can see and “touch” COTS solution and you can conclude that it works or not, while customized development you know only after plug and play. There are many cases where people invest in developing customized software and in the end it simply doesn’t work properly or delays which come from corrections will extend investments and postpone timing as one of the most critical point for success. Of course, it all depends who are you going to contract for developing your customized solution and their expertise and organization in all project phases, including after sales support.
• COTS solutions usually costs less than customized ones even when they need adoptions.
Making a decision
When making such a decision, it is vital to take into account your business requirements and the needs of your team. Each piece of software will need to be evaluated on an individual basis. If you need something you can plug in and use right away, then you should choose COTS solution. However, if you find that your requirements are so unique that it will be too costly and time-consuming to adapt an existing product, then you should choose custom software development.
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