US time changes could wreak havoc on systems

The planned changes to the beginning and ending of Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the United States in March will have significant implications for organisations around the world, said analyst Gartner, but few are planning for the effect.

The planned changes to the beginning and ending of Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the United States in March will have significant implications for organisations around the world, said analyst Gartner, but few are planning for the effect.

Gartner said few organisations have any formalised risk assessment and remediation programme in place to address the potential impact of the time modification.

Disruptions at an IT infrastructure and application level are likely as a result, and could include interruptions to calendaring applications, billing applications and security programmes, in addition to affecting travel and trading schedules, claimed the analyst.

The changes are effective from 1 March and are one of the many provisions of the US Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The changes will mean that US DST will begin almost one month earlier on the second Sunday in March (instead of the first Sunday in April) and end on the first Sunday in November (instead of the last Sunday of October).

This means, for example, that between 11 March and 25 March this year there will be a six-hour time difference between London and New York, instead of the normal five-hour difference, and a seven hour difference between cities such as Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid or Milan and New York, instead of their normal six-hour difference.

According to Gartner, the impact will extend outside of the US and any organisation that interacts with US business partners will also need to undertake a review of their time-related exposures.

These could include calendaring applications showing incorrect recurring meeting schedules; incorrect times for arrivals and departures within the travel industry; and bank transaction errors, manifesting in late payments.

In addition, there could be trading applications executing purchases and sales at the incorrect time, and missed deadlines for admissions and other time-sensitive enrolment programmes.

Gartner has advised organisations to plan ahead and protect their applications in preparation for the potential disruption. 

Will Cappelli, a Gartner analyst, said, “This is a minor problem compared to the big code changes required in the recent past for issues like Y2K or the Euro conversion.  However, significant business damage and liabilities could occur from applications performing their processing at the incorrect time, if organisations do nothing.”

As the date for the change approaches, more and more patches to safeguard applications are becoming available, and Gartner advised organisations to check with suppliers on a regular basis regarding relevant patching programmes. 

Cappelli said that most of the top IT suppliers have or are preparing patches for supported products, but are downplaying the time change effect, fearing repeats of Y2K panic levels.

“Few suppliers have centralised repositories of patch and related information, although patches for major operating systems and other infrastructure components appear to be readily available,” he said. 

Gartner said support service departments should be fully staffed on 11 and 12 March to deal with any problems.

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