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SEC XBRL Helps One See the Future of Financial Reporting

I started my career the summer that my office of Price Waterhouse, as the international public accountancy firm was called back in 1982, received its first IBM personal computer. Quite a lot has changed since then.  We used these huge paper spreadsheets for audits which provided me with lots of motivation to learn first Visicalc (the first electronic spreadsheet I had seen) and then Lotus 1-2-3. The benefits of electronic spreadsheets were pretty clear to me and I used them, other accountants took years to make the shift. So it goes.

If you are looking at the SEC XBRL filings that you have to create as a nusiance that the government regulators has thrust upon you, you are missing a trend which has been picking up steam.

Between 1982 and about 1998 what I did for work amounted to applying technologies to the financial reporting process to make those processes easier.  My technologies were Excel, Access, the Internet when that became available and in 1998 a thing called XML.  My understanding of XML led to XBRL. The SEC and others thought this was a good idea, the SEC mandated it, and now people bolt on another step to their processes to generate the XBRL so they can give it to the SEC.

My techniques worked in the 1980s and 1990s, but today there are more robust solutions and the problems and their solutions have been given names:

  • Business Intelligence
  • Performance Management
  • B2B Automation
  • Business Process Automation
  • Enterprise Information Management
  • Enterprise Search
  • Customer Facing Buiness Intelligence

There are lots of other terms, that is only some of them.  These terms can be hard to get your head around, but Information Builders, a vendor of such solutions, has provided a nice summary of 2 minute videos which explains both the problems and their solutions to the problems.

Information Builders is a partner of the company I work with, UBmatrix. We have other partners, three other stand outs are Oracle, IBM, and SAP.

My point here is that the bolt on processes used today are a short-term solution in the evolution to the longer term solution to not only SEC XBRL filings, but to financial reporting and business reporting in general.  If you are a CPA, this is a great opportunity to figure out what financial reporting is going to look like five to ten years from now.  And I am not talking about just public companies reporting to the SEC, I am talking about financial reporting in general.

Watch the videos I mentioned above. Consider the pain points the videos show. Think about whether you have any of these pain points.  I specualte that you probably do.  Everyone does pretty much.

See SEC XBRL filings as something you may want to consider paying attention to whether you are an SEC filer or not.  There is much to be learned from those SEC XBRL filings should one look.

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