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In the early days of business computing, most software was written from scratch. Companies created applications to automate key business processes such as American Airlines' legendary Sabre computerized reservation system. Such leading-edge applications were challenging to develop. While companies still build custom applications today, the advent of COTS software over the past 30 years has dramatically changed the way they acquire software. In an extensive study involving 126 organizations, we analyze how management information systems (MIS) managers evaluate key attributes of COTS software. The results provide surprising insights into the COTS software characteristics that buyers value most. The findings have important implications for COTS buyers and suppliers. For buyers, we provide an assessment framework for evaluating COTS software. For companies that develop COTS software, we provide insights into what attributes their prospective customers value most.