The Great COTS Data Solution Myth

I was speaking recently with a client about a possible data solution and as he brought to my attention some of the challenges he and his company were sorting through, he mentioned his frustration with the recent COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) data product they had purchased. He was promised that this one product would solve all of their current data problems and that they would be up and running in no time with no customization needed.

What do you think really happened?

That’s right – soon thereafter both he and his team realized that there really is no one-size-fits-all data solution and they now had a much bigger and more expensive challenge on their hands. Why does this sort of thing continue to happen? Why do some companies allow the great COTS data solution myth to cloud their better judgment?

A company’s data and the business drivers behind why and how a company decides to use that data are all very unique. There is no data set out there or set of internal processes and procedures around data that are 100% identical. Therefore, all data solutions, despite what tools or methodologies you decide to employ, are in one way or another totally unique to your organization and require some level of customization and strategic planning. By perpetuating this COTS data solution myth and not coming to terms with the reality of what a true data solution should and will entail, organizations are actually creating more headaches, more complexity and ultimately more cost.

On paper, the allure of an off-the-shelf data product is attractive. By definition, these products claim to be ready-made and able to plug into any business ecosystem with ease. They also tend to come with a smaller up-front price tag. What’s not to like? While these products are in fact designed to operate this way, they simply cannot account for all of the unique organizational complexities that they will ultimately interact with. Data modernization is not a single solution, it’s not a single initiative and it’s certainly not one single COTS tool.

So, how can you avoid falling prey to the great COTS data solution myth?

  1. Consider the long-term strategy, not short-term solutions. Any legitimate data modernization solution will be an ongoing, iterative process for the foreseeable future. This process will entail the constant evaluation of internal needs, market trends and the tools and process that properly fit into your data stack at that given time. While some of the tools that you plug into your data stack may in fact be custom off-the-shelf tools, they will only be pieces of a much more robust and yes, custom solution that has been designed specifically for your organization, over time.
  2. Foundational data practices are key to success. If you’re at the very beginning of the data modernization journey, remember that you don’t have to boil the ocean all at once. You don’t need to find one tool that claims to do it all. Data modernization starts with very foundational changes that allow for your organization to evolve and scale over time.
  3. Get advice from an expert. Talking to a company like UDig that has expertise in foundational data modernization will allow you to leverage their experience across industries, get guidance on where you should be spending your time and money, and leverage best practices rather than playing the guessing game and making expensive assumptions.

In the years to come, intelligent and thoughtful data modernization strategies will be critical to the success of all organizations. Be sure to keep an open mind and whatever you do, don’t fall prey to the great COTS data solution myth!