COTS-Based Systems – Fundamentals

Course Length:



$1990 per person


This three day course provides a systemic overview of how to use Systems Engineering to plan, manage, and execute projects that have significant Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) content. Modern development programs are increasingly characterized by COTS solutions (both hardware and software) in both the military and commercial domains.

This course focuses on the fundamentals of planning, execution, and follow-through that allow for the delivery of excellent and effective COTS-based systems to ensure the needs of all external and internal stakeholders are met. Participants will learn the necessary adjustments to the fundamental principles of Systems Engineering when dealing with COTS technologies. Numerous examples of COTS systems are presented. Practical information and tools are provided that will help the participants deal with issues that inevitably occur in the real word. Extensive in-class exercises are used to stimulate application of the course material.

Each student will receive a complete set of lecture notes and an annotated bibliography.

What you will learn:

  • The key characteristics of COTS components.
  • How to effectively plan and manage a COTS development effort.
  • How using COTS affects your requirements and design.
  • How to effectively integrate COTS into your systems.
  • Effective verification and validation of COTS-based systems.
  • How to manage your COTS suppliers.
  • The latest lessons learned from over two decades of COTS developments.

Who should attend:

  • Prime and subcontractor engineers who procure COTS components.
  • Suppliers who produce and supply COTS components (hardware and software).
  • Technical team leaders whose responsibilities include COTS technologies.
  • Program and engineering managers that oversee COTS development efforts.
  • Government regulators, administrators, and sponsors of COTS procurement efforts.
  • Military professionals who work with COTS-based systems.

Course Outline:

  1. COTS Concepts and Principles. Key COTS concepts. COTS-Based Systems Engineering (CBSE). Complexity inherent in COTS-based solutions. CBSE compared and contrasted with Traditional Systems Engineering (TSE). Key challenges and expected benefits of CBSE. COTS lessons learned.
  2. COTS Influences on Requirements Development. Tailored and new approaches to requirements. Stakeholder requirements and measures of effectiveness (MOEs). System Requirements and measures of performance (MOPs). Flow down of requirements to COTS components.
  3. COTS Influences on Architecture and Design. Architecting principles. Make vs. buy decisions. Architectural and design strategies for CBSE. Supporting the inherent independence of the leveraged COTS components. Dealing with the unique interdependencies of overlapping COTS and system lifecycles. Support for ongoing change and evolution of the COTS components. Architectural frameworks. Technical performance measures (TPMs). Readiness levels. Modeling and simulation.
  4. COTS Life Cycle Considerations. Reliability, Maintainability, Availability (RMA). Supportability/Logistics, Usability/Human Factors. Training. System Safety. Security/Survivability. Producibility/ Manufacturability. Affordability. Disposability/Sustainability. Changeability (flexibility, adaptability, scalability, modifiability, variability, robustness, modularity). Commonality.
  5. COTS Influences on Integration and V&V. Integration, verification, and validation approaches in a COTS environment. Strategies for dealing with the dynamic and independent nature of the COTS components. Evolutionary and incremental integration, verification, and validation. Acceptance of COTS components.
  6. COTS Influences on Technical Management. Planning, monitoring, and control. Risk and decision management, Configuration and information management. Supplier identification and selection. Supplier agreements. Supplier oversight and control. Supplier technical reviews. COTS Integrator role.


If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead time. For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410)956-8805, or email us at


  • David D. Walden, ESEP, is an internationally recognized expert in the field of Systems Engineering. He has over 30 years of experience in leadership of systems development as well as in organizational process improvement and quality having worked at McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics before starting his own consultancy in 2006. He has a BS degree in Electrical Engineering (Valparaiso University) and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (Washington University in St. Louis) and Management of Technology (University of Minnesota). Mr. Walden is a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and is an INCOSE Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP). He is also a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a member of Tau Beta Pi. He is the author or coauthor of over 50 technical reports and professional papers/presentations addressing all aspects of Systems Engineering.

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