Sunday, June 26, 2005

Embracing XBRL for the Future: EDGAR Online's I-Metrix Builds a Global Home for XBRL Content

The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) has its fans and its doubters in the U.S., with many institutions and content vendors dragging their feet to use the standard for financial reporting and corporate information. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a voluntary program to encourage filings, though so far only a smattering of companies are biting. So why should a business content vendor jump at XBRL at this point? Ask EDGAR Online, which has made data from all companies in its SEC feeds available in XBRL format and introduced its I-Metrix series of business analysis products that uses its Microsoft Excel-based XBRL interface to fuel I-Metrix' executive dashboard and alerts tools. The display and content integration capabilities of I-Metrix are fueled by business intelligence software from Theoris, providing powerful visual analysis of external financials, reports and company-internal business content to allow companies to develop compelling analysis for senior executives, financial analysts and auditors. The XBRL underpinnings of data from EDGAR Online allow an informed selection of specific data elements using its XBRL-based data dictionary to help build "apples-to-apples" financial data comparisons.

It's a slick series of focused capabilities that takes EDGAR Online via its Theoris partnership towards the business solutions market. Its strong front-end user technology and flexible back-end management via Excel makes a compelling case for taking advantage of XBRL formatting sooner rather than later for management teams needing sophisticated analysis with live updates - and not just in the U.S. The movement towards global financial markets and the subsequent need for standardized international analysis is creating another widening market for XBRL adaptation. This may wind up providing EDGAR Online a broader corporate marketplace beyond the financial services industry into which I-Metrix tools can be sold with EDGAR Online data and Web links. Scalability is claimed, though it's probably safe to say that the appeal of sophisticated analysis tools such as I-Metrix within a given company will provide a somewhat self-limiting challenge to the claim. With companies up to their gills in government reporting requirements, it may take the pull of more effective content solutions such as I-Metrix to push more companies into the XBRL camp more quickly. Until then, XBRL can prove its own merits clearly through I-Metrix applications.
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