Public sector budgeting software: why COTS is preferred


According to the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, the world of software development has evolved rapidly in the last decade. In particular, the use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products as elements of larger systems is becoming increasingly commonplace.


Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software is a term for software products that are ready-made and are readily available for purchase in the commercial market. Most organizations use COTS software in an attempt to increase reliability, while reducing cost and delivery time of software systems development.


In 1994, the U.S. Department of Defense started the transition from custom-made software to software developed using COTS components, based on the observation that it had historically fielded technology that was more than 10 years old, while new technology emerging every 18 to 24 months. The Department of Defense’s current policy is to acquire products that satisfy user needs with a measurable improvement to mission capability, in a timely manner at a reasonable price. This is known as the cheaper, faster, better paradigm.


The trend of transitioning from custom-made software to COTS solutions in the public sector has continued as a result of the following advantages of COTS software:

  • It takes a lot less time to purchase and implement COTS software than it does to develop a custom solution;
  • COTS solutions in general benefit from a dedicated software development focus (e.g. Budgeting) and a formal institutionalized process;
  • A COTS solution that is configurable can be modified and integrated with financial systems to fit the unique needs of an individual organization, while still delivering the advantages of automation and streamlining of procedures inherent to a standardized model;
  • Because software developers are forced to differentiate themselves in a competitive market, COTS solutions in all probability offer the benefits of continuous improvement of functionality;
  • COTS solutions come at a lower total cost of ownership because development and support costs are spread out over a large install base. This applies to both core functionality and integration with financial systems and hardware.


To get the greatest value from COTS solutions, a fine balance of customization and/or configuration is required. The key to success is to determine the minimum level of functional configuration required to meet business objectives.

  • Execute a comprehensive software selection process that ensures most of your needs can be met with the COTS solution’s capabilities and with a minimal level of customization required to meet those objectives;
  • A need for extensive customization boosts the acquisition cost of the COTS solution and delays the implementation of needed applications—often by many months due to the added complexity. Maintenance costs of heavily customized systems are high since they require more effort from the support team and even minor changes can require major testing. Upgrading to new software versions is costly and time-consuming when a COTS solution has been heavily customized;
  • Consider the maturity level of the COTS product and its capabilities: The amount of time that the software product has been successfully deployed and the scope of installations are directly correlated with the amount of customization and functional configuration that may be required. New and/or less mature COTS products usually require significantly more customizations than time-tested COTS solutions.


As a proven COTS solution provider, Questica delivers all of the necessary budgeting tools while also offering a high level of configurability and integration with a wide variety of ERP systems. Questica has delivered budgeting solutions to the public sector since 1998; and from the outset, Questica Budget was designed specifically for the unique needs of the public sector. Questica Budget has just surpassed 200 public sector customers/installations.


Questica’s focus is on improving the budgeting process for organizations, not making these entities adapt to a new solution. Questica’s solution is 100 percent web-based, supporting the most commonly used browsers. There is no footprint on the workstation and no need for IT to install or distribute software when new releases or updates are made available.

Questica Budget currently manages over $55 billion in annual public sector budgets. If you would like to take advantage of the benefits of a proven COTS solution, take the first step today and request a demo of Questica Budget.