ICGFM Promotes Knowledge Transfer Among Public Financial Management Experts

Working globally with governments, organizations, and individuals, the International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management is dedicated to improving financial management by providing opportunities for professional development and information exchange.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

XBRL—A Language of the Government 2.0 World

Liv Apneseth Watson, Senior Executive, IRIS Business Services described XBRL. She explained how XBRL is changing financial reporting in the public sector. XBRL is not about technology, according to Ms. Watson, it is about solving major data problems. XBRL is, fundamentally, an electronic language that helps both the private and public sector effectively and efficiently bridge the current gap between business systems by crossing artificial boundaries. She challenged the audience to consider the amount of re-keying of financial data done today and the difficulty in finding business information on the Internet.

Ms. Watson said that XBRL is like universal bar codes but for financial reporting. Compelling reasons for XBRL:

  • Making financial and business information exchange better, faster, and cheaper
  • Making financial reporting more transparent and discoverable
  • Explicitly articulating business meaning and thus enabling the exchange of that meaning between humans or between business systems
  • Improving data integrity
  • Integrating business systems
  • Saving government agencies money and making them more efficient
She described the problem in the SEC in the United States to find financial information. Businesses provide this information, but the SEC cannot find the appropriate information. The FDIC in the United States was able to increase the accuracy of data from 64% to over 90% by using XBRL.

XBRL is tagged data that is machine readable. It is a standard way to communicate business and financial information. XBRL is an open source international standard operated by a non-profit consortium. It is more than financial reporting. It provides a global business reporting supply chain. Machine readable makes data re-usable.

Ms. Watson described how XBRL provides more functionality than previous methods. XBRL uses" hyperlinks on steroids," according to Ms. Watson. She described the taxonomy of an XBRL item. The presentation element of XBRL enables translating labels to multiple languages. This reduces the cost to report in multiple languages.

The methods for calculating business and statistical information can be linked to the XBRL item. This means that the information will be presented based on national or international standards. XBRL can also help identify mathematical errors in financial reports. She also described XBRL in context to spreadsheet applications. XBRL has the intelligence to label, identify context and show formulas eliminating "Excel hell". Anyone with data locked with proprietary systems will be at a disadvantage compared to those with open discoverable data, according to Ms. Watson.

Many governments have adopted XBRL. Her presentation described:
  • Macedonia reporting portal
  • International Accounting Standards Board
  • Securities and Exchange Commission - USA
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Organization - USA
  • Committee for European Securities Regulators
  • State of Nevada
Ms. Watson showed a live demonstration of a sample XBRL database. She switched languages to French and Chinese. Therefore, organizations that adopt XBRL are fully compliant with international standards. Ms. Watson believes that XBRL can make countries more competitive.

XBRL will enable the semantic web and linked data, according to Ms. Watson.

Liv A. Watson heads Global Business Development for IRIS Business Services Private Limited. She is one of the founders of the XBRL Intentional Consortium. She is the co‐author and contributor author to several of books including “XBRL for Dummies” and Governance, Risk, and Compliance Handbook published by Wiley.

Ms. Watson suggested the following links for more information:


Bob said...

Readers may also enjoy "The Potential of XBRL in Federal Financial Reporting" on the Hitachi XBRL blog http://bit.ly/7MfdvR

Bob Schneider
Editor, Data Interactive (the Hitachi XBRL blog)

jehnavi said...

XBRL enabled analytical applications for their persistent analysis of company submissions. The incremental capabilities enabled by XBRL are provided in two areas: 1. incrementally more correct, timely and accurate data available for analysis from the company XBRL submissions that was previously available via traditional reporting / parsing processes; and 2. collaborative modeling and analytical capabilities provided by the formula standardization.