The law of unintended consequences appears to be complicating IT professionals' lives once again, thanks to The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was passed by Congress to help people reduce the amount of electricity they use. Among the Act's provisions is a change in the date when daylight-saving time (DST) takes effect, from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March. The idea is that the additional daylight hours (DST also will end in November instead of October) will enable consumers and businesses to use less energy (a more appealing and less-politically sensitive tactic to encourage energy conservation than something like a gasoline tax, but that's a topic for a different editorial).
But of course, it isn't that simple. Time will tell whether or not extending DST actually cuts energy consumption. But because of the need to "manually" change computers' internal clocks, the move clearly is going to increase aggravation for IT organizations. As it turns out, IT groups will need to update and apply patches to everything from infrastructure and networks to handheld devices, and from databases to applications that process time-sensitive transactions and/or support scheduling and sequencing tasks (not to mention having to remind employees who might end up late for work or business appointments to update cell phones, PDAs and anything else that runs on embedded technology). Financial services IT executives probably have been having flashbacks to the Y2K scare, reliving their concerns, preparations and expenditures for the risks of systems disruption that the year 2000 was expected to bring. For better or for worse, we may never know if the fact that chaos did not ensue on Jan. 1, 2000, meant that the massive reprogramming efforts paid off -- or if it was all a big, tedious waste of effort.
We were still two weeks away from DST's March 11 start date as this column was written -- too early to know how much havoc, if any, might be wreaked by the change. Although the big tech companies have provided patches and disseminated information about necessary upgrade steps, there still will be at least some DST-related distractions for IT organizations. It's yet another example of how the burden of new regulation sometimes weighs most heavily on IT -- the folks who must "spring forward" to make sure their firms don't "fall back" in terms of compliance.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio