COTS or Custom Software: What to Choose

Software development is a very intense market. Everyone wants software services, but they can’t decide which path or approach to choose. There are just so many types of development methodologies, technology stacks, pricing models, and more than an owner might get confused with all the options. So it is necessary to get a proper understanding of your requirements and complete knowledge of your options. You can either buy a ready-made product or you can hire an outsourcing company with skills and expertise that include in product designing, development, testing, deployment and much more than just software development.

The decision to use COTS or custom software is a complex one. There are many factors involved in making this decision, including your company’s size, type of business and industry, and cost.

In addition, you should consider whether or not the software is already available on the market; if so, can it be customized to meet your needs? If not, do you have the resources to develop your software from scratch?

The following section will help you answer these questions and make an informed decision about whether COTS or custom software is right for your business.

What is COTS?

COTS software is pre-written code that’s available to anyone in the world to purchase, use and modify as needed. It’s helpful because it’s easy to use and comes with support. However, companies that use COTS software usually have limited control over how it works and what features it has.

What is custom software?

Custom software is written specifically for a single customer by an in-house team of developers or an IT consulting firm. It can be modified to meet any requirements, but this process can take time and money upfront because you’ll need to hire developers and pay for their time. Also, custom software isn’t always easy for people outside of your company to use or understand.

Difference between COTS and Custom Software Development

Business Scope

Custom software development projects are custom-built for your company’s specific needs. In contrast, COTS software is designed for general use by many different types of businesses. For example, if you own a manufacturing company that manufactures widgets and needs a payroll system to keep track of employee hours worked, it would be best to purchase off-the-shelf payroll software instead of custom-building your solution because it will likely cost less and be easier to use than a custom-built system.

Technology Scope

The technology scope is the set of technologies that must be used to build the software. It’s important to choose a technology stack that fits both your budget and your timeline for development. The technology stack should also support your plans for expansion or growth so that you don’t have to start over again if you need to make changes down the line.

User Interface Scope

User interface design can sometimes be overlooked because people think that it’s not as important as other aspects of development, but this isn’t true at all! If users can’t easily navigate through your website or app, then they won’t use it; therefore, a poorly designed user interface could mean no customers!

Time Frame

COTS products usually take less time to develop than custom software because they already exist as a working solution. You can also expect fewer delays during the development process since there is no need to wait until an external partner has finished their work before continuing with yours. Outsourcing custom software development takes longer because each project has its unique requirements and specifications that must be developed from scratch before any coding can begin.

Project Stage

A COTS solution can be implemented quickly and doesn’t require much customization or integration with other systems. The downside is that you may not be able to find exactly what you need in terms of features or functionality. This is where custom software development comes into play: You can specify exactly what features you want in your new application so it meets all of your business needs and works well with other systems in place within your organization.


COTS software requires little or no maintenance after it is deployed in the market because many other businesses are using the same product as well. However, custom software requires regular updates and upgrades to keep up with the latest technology trends and developments in the industry.


The main difference between COTS and custom software development is the cost-effectiveness. Custom software development is more expensive than COTS because you are paying for the time spent in creating a new piece of software. On the other hand, COTS can be cheaper because there are already existing solutions that you can use to solve your problems.

However, there are also cases when custom software development is more cost-effective than COTS. For example, if your needs are complex and can only be met by customizing an existing system, then you should consider hiring a programmer to do it for you instead of purchasing and integrating various products from different vendors into one system.


Customized applications are generally more secure than COTS solutions because they’re built specifically to meet an organization’s needs. Security measures can be implemented into custom applications that aren’t possible with off-the-shelf products such as anti-virus protection, firewalls, and encryption technology that can protect customer data from hackers or other threats.

Flexibility and Customization

Customized solutions can be more flexible than COTS solutions since they are tailor-made for a specific business need. However, if the flexibility requirement is not too complex, then COTS products can be customized easily by adding new features or changing existing ones according to your business needs.

Integration with Existing Systems

Customized solutions are often integrated with existing systems and technologies within your business, which will allow for seamless communication between these systems. COTS applications are typically not integrated with any other systems or processes in place at the customer’s business.

User Experience

COTS software is built to support a specific workflow, so it’s not as flexible as custom software. Custom software can be tailored to the needs of a specific business and its employees. For instance, if you’re in the medical field, you may want to be able to access information on your phone or tablet something that isn’t possible with most COTS products.


Custom software licensing can be difficult to understand because it varies so much from company to company. Some developers will charge per developer or hour, while others charge based on project size or complexity. It’s important to research this before contracting with a developer, as it could have a significant impact on the total cost of your project.

COTS licensing is usually simpler because it comes with standard licensing terms that are set by the manufacturer. These terms can vary depending on whether your software is proprietary or open-source, but they typically include things like support and maintenance fees, as well as updates and upgrades to ensure that your systems are always up-to-date with new features and capabilities.


In the end, what’s important is that your company finds the right solution, at the right price. Do all of these factors come into play? Certainly but there are still some key things to note. Some companies may be better off with a COTS solution as it will be cheaper in the long run. However, if your ability to tailor a solution according to you and your business is important enough to consider custom software, you’ll want to shop around first.

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