COTS vs Custom Software Development Comparison

Custom software development

COTS vs Custom Software Development Comparison

What is COTS?

COTS, short for ‘commercial off-the-shelf software, is any ready-made software or application created to address complex business challenges through a single application. Office product suites like MS Office and accounting software like QuickBooks are great examples of COTS products.

What is Custom Software Development?

Custom software development involves designing software applications as a customized solution created for a specific user or a group of users within an organization. As they’re created to specifically address user needs, they aren’t packaged for resale.

For instance, a custom application created for Apple will only be available to Apple employees and the department for which it was designed.

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COTS vs Custom Development: Decoding the Differences

With these definitions in mind, let’s take a look at the different parameters where COTS and custom software applications differ from each other.

Business Scope

COTS software is designed to meet the generic needs of various business processes, while custom software applications are built to effectively cater to specific needs for your business—and as your business grows.

Cost-Effectiveness

COTS system costs vary based on the technology that’s chosen and implemented. Custom software application costs depend on the features organizations want to implement in their software network, which justifies the entire cost structure.

Implementation Duration

As a COTS solution is available commercially, you can implement the software and what the software requires within a shorter period. In comparison, the custom software application has a longer implementation timeframe, due to the higher level of planning, development, and deployment involved.

Rights Reserved

Under COTS, the product’s developers reserve full rights for the ready-made public applications; those who want a license will have to create one separately. Alternatively, when you buy a custom software application from a custom software development company, you become the sole owner of the bespoke software and retain full rights to the data sources and application.

Free Trials

COTS developers offer free trials to let businesses test-drive features before making purchase decisions. In the case of custom software development, the whole development process involves the active and continuous involvement of the stakeholders, so they can try out the app anytime once it’s ready.

When it makes sense to buy Off-the-Shelf Software vs Custom Software?

Here are a few scenarios where investing in off-the-shelf vs custom software makes sense:

Situation 1: When you want a fixed expense

COTS solutions have predictable and fixed pricing. Opting for them can reduce your maintenance costs (e.g. ensuring compliance), as well as standard software sustainment expenses (e.g. security patches). Both costs become the COTS developer’s responsibility, defusing the expense across their customers.

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COTS solutions have predictable and fixed pricing. Opting for them can reduce your maintenance costs (e.g. ensuring compliance), as well as standard software sustainment expenses (e.g. security patches). Both costs become the COTS developer’s responsibility, defusing the expense across their customers.

Situation 2: When the COTS Software fits within your Software System

COTS software is a good fit if you’re sure it has the specific features you want and have seen the solution work successfully elsewhere. This can be an issue with custom software development, as you can’t be 100% percent certain the final version will be affordable or scalable. 

When it makes sense to buy Custom Software?

Next, let’s discuss situations when buying custom software can be a smarter choice:

Situation 1: When you have stringent workflows that can’t be adapted or changed

Custom software development caters to the specific environment of an organization. The software is built to help organizations eliminate unique workflow challenges, and if done well, provides an (almost) perfect solution to problems. 

Contrarily, COTS solutions always involve workflow changes and adaptations, as dictated by the COTS software design.

Situation 2: When you can’t find COTS that meet your business needs or user requirements

The biggest advantage of building your own software is that it’s entirely customizable. No feature or user experience is off the table. If you can’t find a ready-made solution that can cater to your specific user requirements and business needs, consider getting custom software.

Situation 3: When your business involves creating new software

Creating a custom-built system is a viable solution if you’re in the business of building software. Moreover, you can mitigate growing and unforeseen costs if you have in-house resources to carry out regular maintenance and modifications. While it may still be a significant time investment, doing the work yourself can make more financial sense than paying an outside contractor.

COTS vs Custom-Built Software: The Final Verdict

While both types of software have their own advantages and drawbacks, opting for custom software solutions makes more sense for businesses with unique needs that can’t be delivered by an off-the-shelf solution

What’s more, partnering with reliable third-party custom software developers like Simpat Tech can help to ensure you stay within your budget and deadlines. The gains from increased efficiency and ongoing support will give you a competitive advantage over your peers, helping your company secure big wins and accelerate its growth.

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