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Got Time?

That whole time-change thing that has everyone rolling their eyes -- you know, early daylight-saving time? OK, it's not Y2K. (What could be?) And as I noted in a recent column (which goes into this issue in greater detail), no one is talking disasters of biblical proportions. But there is a little more to this than the momentary irritation of missed appointments and calendars being off an hou
That whole time-change thing that has everyone rolling their eyes -- you know, early daylight-saving time? OK, it's not Y2K. (What could be?) And as I noted in a recent column (which goes into this issue in greater detail), no one is talking disasters of biblical proportions. But there is a little more to this than the momentary irritation of missed appointments and calendars being off an hour.Think of all the time-sensitive systems out there today -- medical, manufacturing, financial, travel schedules, logistics scheduling and tracking, security systems (and doors and vaults) that open and close based on pre-programmed times. Anything that requires a precise time stamp for legal or audit trail reasons. Think of Sarbanes Oxley (Forrester Research says it will definitely be affected). State governments are certainly worried. Think maybe you should take another look at the systems that support your company's business, and reconfigure the impact?

Because ohhhh, yeah, there's definite fallout here if you don't get your applications and systems switched over to the new daylight-saving time date on time.

But there's more to it than that. Judging from the users I've been hearing from, it's just a time-sucking, cost-building pain in the butt to deal with. Look at PG&E's predicament. It simply decided this was too expensive a change to make, and got permission to bill customers differently to compensate for the impact. So why is this such a pain? Well, for one, too many vendors have wasted the head start they got to deal with this issue (the bill mandating the change was signed in the summer of 2005) and have gone right down to the wire in releasing their patches, which in some cases have to take into account various platforms, access modes, etc. It makes one wonder how well tested they are, and certainly doesn't leave IT much time to do it's own testing. One issue here is that many vendors thought they could leave the fix to the operating system brethren, and realized late in the game that they were wrong, says Ray Wang, a Forrester analyst who has co-written a report on this issue. And if they're late, - where does that leave users?

A lot of these patches are NOT going to work with older versions of software. As Mike Dimyan of Time-Warner pointed out recently, there aren't that many companies who can say they are running the latest version of all their applications. And at this point, he noted, even if vendors gave away the latest updates, most companies couldn't possibly get it installed in time.

So if you've got a mixed environment, you may find some daylight-saving time patches causing other problems even as they solve part of your time issues. Dimyan already has run into this problem. And what about those older versions? What's the fix for them? In some cases, it's going to be "ugly," Dimyan says. And then there's the software that will have to be manually updated, like your custom applications. And you do have customized apps, right?

So, while this problem is certainly solvable, it won't happen without some scrambling, a lot of manpower, a lot of testing and cross testing, a chunk of money and time. You may have plenty of the rest, but the one thing you don't have much left of, right now, is time.

Have you run into problematic patches, cross-compatibility issues, or no patch support for the versions of software you are running? Has your vendor either waited so long to issue a patch or posted such confusing information on its site that it's affected your efforts to update your systems? Tell us about it, and any solutions you've worked out, in the comment field below.