The December 2008 announcement by the SEC has been reason for celebration in the XBRL community, especially among the smaller software vendors who've been looking forward to this reporting standard to be mandated for several years now. We ought to begin to see the big software vendors like IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft jockeying for position as their customers begin XBRL reporting rollouts. However, it will soon be sometime before we see consolidation in this marketplace. Although XBRL 's been around because the late 90's, it's only the recent SEC mandate and to a smaller degree, the roadmap for adoption of the IFRS standard, that's fueling the present interest in XBRL reporting. In addressing CFOs, COOs, and Accountants of both public and regulatory companies, I'm finding that there's still confusion about where to start with an in-house XBRL implementation strategy, what the primary ingredients are, or when to hop on the bandwagon. Furthermore, the requirements of public companies are very different from the requirements of the organizations that regulate them.xbrl software
As a Technology-based Solutions Consultant advising and delivering ERP, e-commerce, and Business Intelligence (BI) solutions for large organizations over the past 20+ years, I have experienced first-hand, how easy it's to act as all things to all or any people. A brand new technology evolves, vendors emerge in the room, and although each vendor has their unique strength, they often portray themselves as getting the silver bullet, as opposed to employed in partnership together in order to provide the most effective value for the customer.
In the financial services community, prospective customers of XBRL products and services typically fall within 1 of 2 classes - 1. public or regulated corporations and 2. regulators or other organizations involved with data collection and consolidation. (Let's leave the average investor on the sidelines for now. As their only requirement is to see company reports, they'll have their needs met by free downloadable XBRL report viewers.)
In this first of two articles, I will concentrate on the implementation needs of the public or regulated company. My follow-up article will concentrate on the XBRL implementation needs of regulatory organizations.
For companies that have to conform to regulatory bodies, (or private companies that may also be regulated and have to offer reports in XBRL format), the technology enablers for incorporating the XBRL reporting standard into their businesses are available one of the XBRL vendors - UBMatrix, Corefiling, Fujitsu, ABZ Reporting, Rivet software, Coyote Reporting, Snappy Reports, to call a powerful core. (NOTE: I'm not endorsing the companies I'm mentioning in this article. I'm just providing them as samples of the vendors in this marketplace.)
XBRL integration is fundamentally a three-step process. Import/extend a taxonomy (a business rules data dictionary) which creates the XBRL "tags" for the reporting structure; run your computer data through the tagging process, utilizing your taxonomy; finally, render the information in a user-readable format.
The XBRL vendors have created three automated off-the-shelf products to help you complete these steps with minimal pain:
1. Taxonomy Designer - which supplies a user-friendly online interface to permit you to build, import, and extend reporting taxonomies. That is your "tagging" tool. And there are certainly a wide range of these tagging tools out there. You may even find a free of charge one once you learn where you should look. I would suggest you get a Taxonomy Designer that has drag-and-drop capability and allows you to import and extend a platform taxonomy that's downloadable from the Internet or provided to you by an associated company or regulatory body. Make sure this tool also is sold with built-in taxonomy validation at both the bottom and extension level.
2. Processing Engine - which uses your taxonomy to essentially map the conversion of reporting data from text, CSV, Excel, HTML, XML, etc. format into XBRL. It is suggested purchasing an engine that offers two-way conversion. So beginning with XBRL, you can convert back to whatever source you began with, or to some other standard format. Search for an Engine with built-in data validation functionality or make sure that data validation comes bundled with your Report Builder (next step), i.e., to flag unbalanced accounts. This can save you lots of manual effort and frustration.xbrl filing software free download
3. Report Builder - allows you to render (display) XBRL "instance" documents", or individual financial reports in a user-friendly format for the net, in PDF, or even to MS Excel or Word formats, etc. Again, this calls for your taxonomy as input, combined with report data, in order to render the report in a format that individuals can read. These report builders differ a great deal in terms of functionality. Some provide web rendering capability only; some render in multiple formats including Word, Excel, and PDF; others provide parameter-driven comparison capability. Be clear on the functionality you need. This puts you in a position to negotiate the price tag on the tool you finally select.