6 steps to a successful COTS implementation


Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software is a term for software products that are ready-made and available for purchase in the commercial market.


Public sector organizations are relying more and more on COTS applications to supplement, enhance or replace proprietary systems. This dependency is driven by the promise of improved functionality and reduced total ownership cost, as well as a concern over an inability to develop and maintain proprietary IT solutions versus COTS IT applications.


Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI) is a privately-held global information technology application management and outsourcing corporation, with a history of helping state and local public sector clients gain a competitive advantage through the effective use of IT COTS applications. CAI has developed a 6-step methodology for planning, executing and deploying a successful COTS-based software solution:


1. Analyze Software Requirements

The requirements analysis process is necessary to determine what functionality is needed to deliver the capability required by the eventual end user(s).


2. Evaluate and Select COTS Product Options

The evaluation of COTS applications needs to be focused on more than just product characteristics, such as functionality, maturity, technology, architecture and long-term viability. There should also be a focus on vendor characteristics such as maturity, stability, cooperation and ability to provide adequate support, training and documentation.


3. Finalize Terms with COTS Vendors

Have a clear picture of the recurring and non-recurring costs associated with the system being developed.


4. Implement the COTS-based Solution

There are certain tasks that should be performed in order to ensure the COTS application components are configured for the system and its requirements. Although these activities are unlike traditional coding exercises, they do take time and effort to complete. The results of these activities require testing and verification. These tasks also require a significant level of understanding, in regards to how COTS components work and how to implement them.



5. Maintenance and Upgrade of the COTS-based Solution

Once the software is deployed, the inclusion of updates and upgrades is desirable. In order to maintain a software system that meets market expectations, updates to COTS software components will likely be necessary. The vendor should also be upgrading the product to keep up with rapidly changing technology.


6. Maintain License, Subscription and Royalty Fees

License or maintenance fees need to be paid in order to ensure updates and upgrades, as well as continuous support for COTS components. It is important to understand the vendor’s upgrade policies. It is also wise to do a long-term analysis of the differences between annual subscription fees (if subscription is an option) in comparison with paying for upgrades on an individual basis.


A well thought out and well-executed software project that incorporates COTS solutions can be implemented more quickly and be more cost effective than the same system with custom-developed components. Following the 6-step methodology will ensure that important activities and decision points are properly executed.



Questica has been providing budgeting solutions to the public sector since 1998. Questica Budget, Performance and Dashboard represent proven COTS solutions. Questica is one of the few vendors with proven integration experience, including an ability to integrate with many of the ERP systems on the market.



Questica is currently responsible for over $55 billion in annual public sector budgets. If your organization is considering supplementing, enhancing or replacing your proprietary system with a COTS software solution, we invite you to learn more about our implementation process or contact us to request a demo of Questica’s solutions.