The One Date Standard

I work for an international manufacturing and engineering company, and like other companies in this category we must extensively use standards. But, in IT, we tend not to follow some established guidelines. One example is the date and time format which is used by staff when they update our help desk software. In Europe they write day/month/year and in the US we write month/day/year, so at the beginning of the month at the beginning of the year it can be hard to tell if a service request is only a day old or a month old.

Our help desk software does allow us to see the log of when the ticket was changed, but usually we just look at the agent notes section because it contains, in one spot, all the information on what has happened with the ticket. The agent notes section is updated by people manually, and agents are required to enter a date and time near their comment, which is where the confusion comes in.

Interestingly enough, the software [usually] shows the date format in a localized format rather than in an established standard format.

I have recommended choosing a standard format that is established by a recognized standards organization such as ISO, ANSI, NIST, or CSA. And, all of these standards organizations have adopted the same format: YYYY-MM-DD.

I have converted a few people to using the standard date format, but the organization as a whole has not been swayed much. I’m sure that management sees this as a minor issue, but from my perspective setting this standard would send a message that IT is committed to using established standards. The use of standards usually saves companies money in the long run.

To get more information on date/time format standards you can search for the documents listed below or you can visit the Wikipedia article covering the primary ISO document 8601.

  • The ISO (international) specification for date format is documented in “ISO 8601”
  • The ANSI (US) specification for date format is documented in “ANSI X3.30”
  • The NIST (US) specification for date format is “NIST FIPS 4-1”
  • The CSA (Canadian) specification for date format is “CSA Z234.5”
  • The European Norm specification for date format is “EN 28601”
Published: 2008-03-07
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