Why CFOs Must Become Chiefs of XBRL

XBRL filings are a rich source of data that all departments can use to make operations more efficient and to conduct competitive analysis.

There are those that argue that the quality of XBRL filings is not at the level needed for effective GRC analysis and use by the executive team. They say that if the XBRL data from your firm or that of your competitors is inaccurate, then the analysis of these figures will be erroneous and lead to invalid decisions.

The SEC is taking steps to analyze disclosures and track for accounting fraud and financial disclosure issues with the introduction of the AQM. The use of XBRL-standardized data is bringing about tighter regulatory control to avoid scandals like those that stemmed from Enron and WorldCom in 2002, as the AQM uses a set model to examine disclosures to find any abnormal issues.

As Craig Lewis, chief economist and director for the division of economic and risk analysis at the SEC, said during the XBRL US 2013 conference in September, the AQM creates a structured analytical model that examines filer information and identifies outliers. This model and resulting analysis uses submitted XBRL filings with the intent to improve the overall quality of financial disclosures.

A Crucial Missing Link
Even once the market and internal constituents are educated on the value of XBRL data and CFOs are spending time ensuring that data is properly tagged and referenced, we still have a missing link in the equation between business data and its value.

Right now, a CFO cannot tell who is accessing the company’s XBRL filings, what information is being selected or how it is being used. This is a crucial missing link in the business knowledge circle. Without insight into how and what data is being used, CFOs cannot create the right data points. There needs to be a connection between what data points are being accessed and how they are being analyzed to tell executives what information investors need to know.

Armed with the knowledge of how certain data points are being accessed, CFOs will place a greater value on choosing the correct tags and creating financial disclosures. This information will also lead the financial team to take greater care with these numbers and the associated detailed footnotes, ensuring that the information is clearly conveyed and extensively detailed.

Building out this knowledge chain of how and what information is being accessed from XBRL filings should be the first step in bringing a collaborative process between the analysis and filing sides of the market.

The value of XBRL data lies in how it will be used internally and by investors. CFOs can only educate and use XBRL data to a certain extent. Without the insight into what and how the data points are being used, there is little guidance on where to place the emphasis with the detailed footnotes and tags.

By completing the business knowledge circle with the information on which data points are being accessed and how they are being analyzed, tagging and disclosures will have greater importance and will drive people to correctly file information.

As XBRL filings and disclosure management solutions evolve, CFOs must determine how they can easily track and identify these major data points for greater insight into the topics that matter to their constituents.

John Truzzolino is the director of business development for Global Capital Markets at RR Donnelley.

5 thoughts on “Why CFOs Must Become Chiefs of XBRL

  1. XBRL is a technology used to express financial information digitally. Eventually, software will hide the technology (XBRL). What CFOs need to master is expressing financial information digitally. This is independent of any specific technology, XBRL being one of many technologies used to express financial information digitally.

    CFOs will eventually realize the benefits of working with digital information which is structured.

  2. XBRL is available for more than decade. It combines little Web tools and program. I doubt how CFO can understand XBRL and its application except Taxonomy. XBRL is nothing but extension of XML with program skill to publish and present the report through Web and paperless office. USA is using such Tech quite sometimes and lot of data available. Most of ERP systems put up XBRL tools but implementation such usage is very limited.

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