Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Getting to know XBRL

The following is the first guest contribution on this blog. Bob Schneider, its author, is the editor of Data Interactive, a blog sponsored by Hitachi to help financial professionals stay informed about developments in the world of XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language).

In a recent survey by the CFA Institute, some 59% of respondents said they were “not aware” of XBRL. Even if that understates CFA Charterholders' acquaintance with the data standard, it’s undoubtedly true that many financial professionals still have little knowledge of XBRL or – as SEC chair Christopher Cox calls it – “interactive data.”
As recently as within the past few weeks, XBRL taxonomies have been completed and widespread XBRL adoption is coming into view. Analysts and accountants are eager to gain an understanding of what XBRL is and what it can do.
Where can they turn to for help? Here are five resources that go beyond mere definitions and give users true insight to what XBRL can be.
An excellent place to start is Cheaper, Smarter, Faster: Benefits to Analysts from XBRL written by Christian Dreyer, who writes this blog, and Mike Willis, partner at PwC and a leading XBRL authority. Specifically directed at financial analysts, the article clearly and imaginatively describes XBRL, discusses its progress in various countries, and describes interactive data's various benefits. Although it doesn't contain the latest XBRL developments – it was published about a year ago – it is still the single best article on XBRL for financial professionals who are new to interactive data.
One of my favorite XBRL speakers is Liv Watson, VP of Global Strategies at EDGAR Online. Liv is one of those rare speakers who makes the dull seem interesting, and the interesting, exhilarating. In her presentation at the Third Annual XBRL Canada Conference, she uses war stories and fun asides to describe the benefits of XBRL for both external and internal reporting.
For the past year or more the most notable proponent of XBRL has been SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. In March the Commission held an Interactive Data Roundtable that included many key XBRL players, including representatives from companies participating in the Voluntary Filing Program. Ably moderated by Chicago Sun-Times journalist Terry Savage, the webcast provides listeners with an understanding of what implementing XBRL may entail and describes key XBRL issues going forward.
Interactive data comprises both XBRL-FR (for financial reporting) and XBRL-GL (for global ledger). The latter is the subject of the webcasts at GaLaPaGoS (click XBRL GL Webcasts). Two that are especially noteworthy are XBRL and SOA, a superb presentation by Walter Hamscher on why companies will need to adopt XBRL to fulfill their compliance requirements, and Eric Cohen's self-explanatory What Is the Global Ledger Good For? Uses of XBRL GL.
Finally, one more resource I'd like you to be aware of is the recently created archive of XBRL conferences at XBRL.org. Listening or reading the speeches made at these gatherings is perhaps the best way for newcomers to the field to gain an appreciation of what XBRL has to offer, as well as the most important issues in interactive data adoption.

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