Software Selection: Should you Choose Custom Software or COTS?

Is it time for you to begin the software selection process? If so, you are probably weighing the pros and cons of a commercial-off-the-shelf solution (COTS) and a custom software solution. First, you should evaluate your business needs and goals. Thus, allowing you to determine any features you want in a software solution. Whether you are a large corporation or a small startup, choosing a solution can be a daunting task. To help make the selection process a little easier, we will discuss situations when you should lean towards custom development and when you should lean toward COTS.

When to decide on custom development: 

If there are no COTS that meets your business’ needs

Every company has unique needs. Some of these needs are so specific that choosing a COTS would disrupt existing processes, thus, causing frustration among team members. One of the benefits of a custom software solution is that you are starting with a blank slate. Therefore, you can add features that will meet your company’s specific needs. Additionally, you will not be paying for features you wouldn’t use.

If you have strict workflows

When choosing a COTS, your users will most likely have to change their workflows to adapt to the new system. If your organization already has strict workflows, modifying current workflows may significantly impede existing processes. As a result, custom software is probably the best solution. Additionally, a custom solution is a great way to streamline processes through workflow automation.

If planning for the future

When designing your custom software, you can plan for future growth while ensuring the system will meet your current needs. You can also incorporate additional development features, like updates and enhancements. When choosing a COTS, it is almost impossible to ensure that the solution will be scalable. Thus, you may be searching for a new system in just a few years.

When to decide on COTS: 

If you saw a product that could work for you

While you were researching or trying out a demo, you may have come across a product that catches your interest. If you liked the way a product works, and it will suit the needs of end users, then choosing a COTS may be the right solution. Additionally, an existing product gives you an exact visual and representation of the final product.

If you are looking for an immediate solution

If time is of the essence, then choosing a COTS may be the best solution. It can take months to develop a custom software solution. Before the project even starts, there is usually a requirements gathering session to identify pain points. Then, there is the process of implementing feedback to ensure the solution will meet the end users’ requirements.

So now what? Before you choose a solution, you should consider your budget, requirements, the timeline to implement a solution, and end goals. It is usually good to meet with key stakeholders so you can determine the above factors. Sometimes, having an outside source weigh in and provide expertise can help fast track the decision process. If you are ready to talk about a software solution, our consultants would love to hear from you!

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