Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Impact of daylight savings time change: bigger than Y2K

Back in January, I wrote that the change in U.S. daylight savings time (DST) rules, which took effect last weekend, might be a mini-Y2K. As it turns out, in some ways, it's a bigger deal than Y2K.

According to press reports, errors have been introduced into calendaring systems at many companies as some users have applied DST patches and others have not. It's gotten really confusing for some organizations where meetings are scheduled with participants outside the organization and in different time zones. Many companies have still not gotten their calendars straightened out.

Meeting schedulers, such as Microsoft's Outlook and Exchange, are just the tip of the iceberg, as they are highly visible and errors are annoying. How many other applications that depend on accurate time-of-day, such time and billing systems, are defective today because of the rules change?

Handheld devices are also problematic. My own experience is that it took me nearly two hours to get my Blackberry OS updated and synchronized with my desktop Outlook applications. Multiply that by the number of Blackberry users worldwide and the economic impact just for this one device is significant.

Why weren't we better prepared? I believe that many organizations deliberately underestimated the potential impact of DST rule changes after their experience with Y2K, which many felt was over-hyped. With warnings of the end of civilization, or at least computerized civilization, companies spent millions of dollars preparing for the turn of the century. But when the clock turned at midnight, nothing happened. It was nearly impossible to find reports of computer failure. Many business executives concluded that the whole thing was a hoax by IT vendors and service providers to spend money upgrading systems.

With that backdrop, it's easy to see why the DST rules change wasn't considered a big deal in many organizations. As it turned out, there's probably been more practical impact from the DST change than there was from Y2K. The difference, of course, is that with Y2K the economic impact was largely felt prior to the calendar change. With the DST rules change, there has been more impact after the fact.

eWeek has a good summary of the "nightmare issues" that some organizations are facing with calendaring systems.

If you've heard of other examples of economic impact from the DST rules change, please email me or leave a comment on this post.

Related posts
Mini-Y2K: Change in daylight savings time rules


Anonymous said...

Well done. I'm an attorney and educator who has been talking and writing about the legal angles of this issue since late 2005. You and your readers may be interested in my writings on the topic, which are collected at www.newdst.com.
Hillel Parness

Anonymous said...

The impact of DST wasn't bigger than Y2K as a consequence of the "rules". It was bigger because most people didn't pay attention to it and didn't prepare. People feel like Y2K was a hoax because we had little if any problems. But, in my opinion it was not a problem because people like us spent a lot of time correcting things. They should have been applauding us IT guys for a job well done. I can't help but feel that the general American public just doesn't understand preventive "medicine". The only thing that we may have overestimated is the impact of Y2K if we had done nothing.