Earlier this year (on another web platform) I wrote about XBRL and the impact it would have on standard business reporting and governance, so I was more than a little bit interested to see the recent post on ReadWriteWeb on XBRL titled XBRL: Mashing up Financial Statements. Given the current state of financial affairs this is probably a good blog post to finish the year.
XBRL or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, is to quote Wikipedia "an open standard which supports information modelling and the expression of semantic meaning commonly required in business reporting". So what does this mean?
Well it means that entities (companies, government agencies, non profit organisations) mark up their financial reporting once (and in standard way), and the information can be readily harvested for governance and reporting requirements.
So what is the fuss about? Well, Ernst & Young state that "Once the XBRL standard is accepted, management, investors, regulatory agencies, and others will reap significant benefits whether sharing information within a single organization or trading documents across company lines."
In Australia, adoption of XBRL is being lead by the Department of Treasury and its Standard Business Reporting Programme while the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is acting as a facilitator. Sponsors include: CPA Australia, The Institute of Chartered Accountants, PriceWaterHouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, MYOB, Fujitsu, and Deloittes. So it is a fair bet to say you are going to hear more about XBRL in 2009. If you want to know more there is a very good video on (you guessed it) YouTube. See following for details. While this Youtube video cites US examples, XBRL is being applied internationally.
Not that standard business reporting or XBRL on their own would have saved us from the current economic yuckiness (highly technical terms that suggests we are up to our eyeballs in crap), but hopefully streamlining and making business reporting easier, more automated, and transparent, may make it harder to hide some of the smelly business shenanigans that has brought the financial market to its knees... and that has to be a good thing.
Now all we need is a international standard xml way to record and report library performance statistics. In my experience the only librarians who hide and don't report their stats are the ones that, well... have something to hide.