In-Depth

The SEC suggests giving EDGAR a try

In addition to the financial community, the SEC is fueling interest in XBRL, although its official position is pointedly neutral. Use of XBRL remains voluntary, but in a recent speech at the XBRL International conference, Peter Derby, managing executive for operations and management at the agency came pretty close to endorsing XBRL, despite a few caveats: “The ever-increasing demands of the market mandate the continued adoption of enabling technologies that allow us to best fulfill our mission in protecting investors and the securities market... XBRL appears to continue to emerge as a standard of choice by the business community for the tagging of financial data.”

Beyond the voluntary filings, the SEC is encouraging companies to try XBRL through EDGAR Online, a publicly held company. The Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system provides automated collection, validation, indexing, acceptance and forwarding of submissions by companies and others who are required by law to file forms with the SEC. EDGAR Online, in turn, has introduced a set of XBRL products, called I-Metrix, that let users analyze more than 1,000 normalized and as-reported data points from corporate financial statements. According to EDGAR Online’s April announcement, the financial reports include public and private U.S. and non-U.S. companies who report financials to the SEC. By the end of 2005, EDGAR Online plans to include data on additional global securities and private companies.

The tools include I-Metrix Professional, which incorporates a Microsoft Excel add-in for XBRL-formatted company financial data through customized Excel templates, thereby avoiding the need to manually reenter data into Excel spreadsheets. The Microsoft version of the product is called Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL. Edgar Online’s I-Metrix Architect provides an API delivered through a SOAP-compliant Web service. It promises to allow developers to enable any software application to use XBRL data.

Back to feature: High Finance Learns a New Language

About the Author

Alan Radding is a freelance technology writer in Newton, Mass. He can be reached at alan@radding.net.

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