Mike Willis of PriceWaterhouseCoopers wrote a good article about how disclosure management software is improving the process of creating financial reports by 30%. In that article Mike mentions the notion of a reporting template.
Last year I created a set of 75 reporting templates. I have updated those reporting templates to the 2013 US GAAP Taxonomy, corrected a few XBRL Formula errors, and updated the visual of the reporting template. Other improvements have been made. You can take a look at these updated reporting templates here.
One of the more useful things that I added to the library of reporting templates is this visual index of all 75 reporting templates. This visual index is interesting to me for two reasons: (1) It quickly allows you to find a reporting template, (2) It shows renderings which are generally pretty good.
The renderings of each reporting template are provided by XBRL Cloud. The renderings are screen shots of the renderings provided by the XBRL Cloud Evidence Package and/or XBRL Cloud Viewer (click on the "Viewer" button on that page).
Personally, I think the renderings are pretty good. Granted, they are not perfect and there are other disclosures which are more complex and maybe they would not render so good. However, I am not so sure that even complex disclosures would not render correctly or at least good enough to be readable.
There are two things which contribute to poor renderings as I mentioned on my blog a year ago:
- Poorly represented information (i.e. bad modelings)
- Poor rendering engines
If you have a poorly represented disclosure there is no rendering engine which would be capable of rendering that poor representation correctly. Likewise, you can have the best representation in the world but if the rendering engine is not so good you could likewise not get a good rendering.
So both the representation AND the rendering engine contribute to achieving a usable/readable rendering. I am not talking about a pixel-perfect rendering. I am not talking about a rendering exactly as one person might want the rendering to be. Specifically satisfying every person's preference with one rendering approach is impossible. Not is that a use case for XBRL as I see it.
The goal is a usable and readable rendering for any disclosure.
Something like Inline XBRLcan get a rendering closer to "pixel-perfect". The Table Linkbase created by the folks pushing the Data Point Modelcan help also. But are Inline XBRL and the Table Linkbase really necessary? I am not so sure. Constructing the Inline XBRL or Table Linkbase information includes additional work. Perhaps there is some benefit for some specific use cases but personally I don't want custom renderings; what I want is to be able to compare information.
But don't rush to judgment. Be sure you are looking at a good information representation using a good rendering engine before you determine that XBRL can or cannot be rendered correctly.