International Project Delivery: How accurate are your timescales?

12. 06. 18 John Chapman

International Project Delivery: How accurate are your timescales?

“Six days you shall labour and do all your work”

The quote above is from the Bible, the Book of Exodus, chapter 20 verse 9. Six days of labour may have been common when this verse was written, however, nowadays, common practice around the world is to work five days a week. Yet which days are worked depends on the country.

Working days

In the UK, Europe and North America, Monday to Friday is the typical working week. Sunday to Thursday is common where the religious tradition is Muslim. In Hong Kong the working week is Monday to Saturday.

Public Holidays

The number of public holidays differs from country to country. The maximum number is 18 in India and Columbia, following by Thailand, Lebanon, South Korea and Japan at 16 days. At the other end of the scale is Mexico with 7 days.In the UK there are eight public holidays each calendar year.

The Implications for Business

When planning an international project we need to take into account working days and public holidays. Project planning software usually allows for the identification of days which are non-working. These can then be taken into account as the software calculates periods based on working days. With a start date and the expected duration, the system will calculate the finish date.

A UK Project Example

Take the example of a Business System implementation for a UK company, with a UK based project team. We need to plan the period for the design phase. Experience tells us it typically takes an elapsed period of 8 weeks. The work starts on Tuesday 1st May 2018 and with a duration of 8 weeks this calculates to end on Wednesday 27 June.

There are two public holidays in the UK in May 2018.

An example where the working week is Sunday to Thursday

Compare this with an internationally delivered project, where the customer is based in a country where the working week is Sunday to Thursday. Software implementations are collaborative pieces of work and dialogue is required between the different members of the project team, particularly during the design of a solution. Productive days are considered to be those where there is an overlap in working days between the teams involved, in this example being Monday to Thursday.

The same start time and duration, now with a calculated finish date of 11 July.

The non-productive time includes the public holidays and also every Friday is listed as a non-working day.

Mathematically this calculates to a variance of about 25%


At project initiation when the plans are first outlined, a time-line for an international project, compared to a UK only project, will appear to be a longer. If the duration of the project is 1 year in the UK, a 25% variance will turn the project into 15 months.

When calculating your project delivery time, consider what do you want to report to the Project Board, a project that is 25% over its time-line throughout, or an on time go live based on a more realistic plan at initiation? Project planning needs to be realistic taking into account local considerations.

  • Share on:
John Chapman

Written by:

John Chapman

Programme Director