The Acumen 360 product generates report scenarios from scheduling data, and Acumen Fuse provides Hill with forensic analysis to get to the bottom of logic busts.

The startup's benchmarking tool, Acumen Cloud, helps customers check the quality of the schedule against a growing data set of industry samples.

Pressley says four key features of the Acumen software suite form the cornerstone of Hill's implementation. They include quality-assessment tools called Logic Density, Redundancy Index and Insufficient Detail, which Hill can deploy to assess the framework of a client's schedule and recommend improvements. With these tools' ability to highlight problem areas and find opportunities, one might argue that a kind of project arbitrage has arrived in construction.

Other tools include Baseline Compliance, which helps users find problematic areas of a schedule.

"What we are seeing now is that projects are using this benchmark analysis to set higher standards and raise the bar or expectations when developing project schedules," says Dan Patterson, CEO and president of Acumen.

"One powerful aspect to this concept is that the benchmarking database is constantly gaining more and more data points every time a project runs a schedule analy-sis, and so it is in many ways a self–improving benchmarking mechanism," says Patterson, a former executive with Pertmaster, which builds risk-analysis tools within Oracle's ">Primavera project management products.

Acumen's tool sets are gaining fans in the construction industry at a time when major providers of scheduling tools are rolling out deeper analytics for big data. These include Oracle's Primavera Risk Analysis and ">Vico Software, which offers sophisticated tools that help users build a complex 4D BIM scheduling model, add in simulations to the model and plug in "what if" scenarios that detect potential problems down the road.

But of all the latest business intelligence tools hitting the market, the benchmarking features represent something of the zeitgeist for the engineering and construction disciplines, which have long called for more data aggregation for these kinds of industry-standard comparisons.

This is one area in which MWH is seeing payback within its consulting and knowledge group, a division that leverages data and technologies to build new products and apps for clients.

MWH is building project-specific apps and other data-driven products by leveraging data from its past projects. Now, the apps can be used to frame conversations with clients about strategic approaches to their engineering needs, says Dan Kieny, director of the consulting division, located in MWH's Broomfield, Colo., headquarters.

The firm calls them mTOOLS. They include field data collection, data analysis, process guidance frameworks, performance management, visualization and reporting applications. From little data, big data grows.

According to CEO Alan Krause, the firm invests close to 8% of its profits in IT. That percentage ranks ahead of the construction industry averages cited in Gartner's statistics.

"We know our clients can benefit from many emerging technologies, particularly technologies that integrate predictive, historic and real-time data to improve decision-making and event response," he notes. "We know we can't afford to sit back and wait for technology to force us to act. We must look inside and outside of our industry for the best technically and commercially innovative ideas."

It's an approach to technology that runs throughout the firm's DNA.
Krause says internal technology groups advocate for the adoption of the best ideas after evaluating their technical and commercial potential, helped by the firm's incubation fund for those investments. "With mobile devices today, we perform our jobs on the site, where we see everything and capture the right data easily and in real time. We use that information to make the best-informed decisions, enabling better work processes. In 10 years, when operating and managing the assets we designed or built, people have the opportunity to use data captured on-site to most effectively manage whole-life costs and performance of those assets."

Data experts say companies have to change their thinking about IT investments and the tool sets they use to keep up with firms that are made more nimble at spotting on-the-job problems with superior data visualization.