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The Power of XBRL Demonstrated

July 24, 2011

After over ten years of development, the power of XBRL is being demonstrated in some interesting and compelling ways. It is being put to practical use in a number of countries and XBRL implementations in increasing numbers. In the process XBRL is proving its benefits in increasing the efficiency, the speed, the accuracy and the transparency of financial reporting. In this article several tools that demonstrate the power and utility of XBRL are described (hyperlinks included). If you know of other helpful tools, please share them by commenting on this post.

XBRL Data in Use

A recent demonstration of XBRL is on the XBRL US Website at http://xbrl.us/research/Pages/data.htm. The tool allows users to see a graphical display of selected XBRL data broken down by year, by quarter, by selected financial concepts and by selected industry.

Brix iPhone App

XBRL US has another free tool that is available to iPhone users. The XBRL iPhone App, called “Brix” or “The Brix Project”, allows users to browse XBRL filings on an iPhone. Filings on the Brix App can be browsed by company or by taxonomy element. The tool also shows the most recent XBRL filings and tracks the total number of companies that file XBRL reports with the SEC as well as the total number of XBRL reports filed to date. The iPhone Brix App can be found at on the XBRL US website at http://xbrl.us/research/Pages/iphone.aspx.

Sample XBRL Data Issues

XBRL US has yet a third tool to inform XBRL users about the most common XBRL error types. The foundation of this site is the XBRL US Consistency Suite which is being used to test the validity and consistency of filings and saving the filing results in an XBRL database. The sample of common XBRL data issues is listed at http://www.xbrl.us/research/Pages/CSuiteSample.aspx. In addition, a count of the number of errors by type is shown on the lower right of the Consistency Suite page at http://xbrl.us/research/pages/Csuite.aspx.

The SEC’s Financial Explorer

Another interesting tool is the SEC’s Financial Explorer (http://209.234.225.154/viewer/home/). The Financial Explorer graphically represents XBRL filing data in a way that non-financial users may find beneficial.

Prime Aim

Prime Aim offers a user friendly XBRL query tool to enable the public to search XBRL filings. The tool is found at http://primeaim.com/ and offers assistance in helping users learn how to use the site. There are Advanced and Browse options as well as a help page and “how to” page.

Reporting Standard Query

Reporting standard has a tool that allows users to write their own queries of XBRL SEC filings. Filings that match the query criteria ar accessable from the query tool which can be found here: http://www.xbrl4.org/regulators/ExploreXBRL.html

XBRL Calculation Issues

XBRL Site, a Chalie Hoffman creation, offers a listing of possible XBRL calculation issues by filing company. The site allows links to the specific calculations that it highlights. Users should be aware that there are occasions when XBRL calculations may not work for valid reasons (like the total being a rounded amount as opposed to an exact amount). The list of possible calculation errors can be found at http://www.xbrlsite.com/demos/Analysis/2009-11-15/Viewer/Other/CalculationIssues.html.

Financial Filing Glossary and Logical Model

Another Charlie Hoffman site summerizes the SEC’s XBRL Logical Model and Provides a Glossary of SEC Filer XBRL terms. There are links throughout the site to take filers to the details of each topic covered. The site may be found at http://secxbrlglossary.wikispaces.com/.

XBRL Cloud

XBRL Cloud analyzes SEC filings and highlights the number of validation errors, warnings, and best practices. I was previously under the impression that XBRL Cloud used its own validation criteria, but thanks to direct contact with XBRL Cloud, I am happy to say that XBRL Cloud goes to great lengths to present findings based on publicly published documents such as the SEC’s EDGAR Filing Manual, and the US GAAP Architecture. Because the validation techniques are based in open and widely recognized standards, companies that have good report on XBRL Cloud can have confidence that their XBRL filings meet required standards. The beauty of XBRL Cloud is that companies, investors and other interested users see a “report card” on how companies are doing with their XBRL SEC filings. The site can be found at http://edgardashboard.xbrlcloud.com/.

Other XBRL Tools

There are other interesting XBRL tools available as well, including a Firefox XBRL add-on (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/xbrl-addon/) that allows users to pivot XBRL data, multiple XBRL taxonomy viewers (http://viewer.xbrl.us/yeti2/resources/yeti-gwt/Yeti.jsp, http://bigfoot.corefiling.com/yeti/resources/yeti-gwt/Yeti.jsp, http://www.fasb.org/jsp/FASB/Page/SectionPage&cid=1176157088011, http://www.compsciresources.com/ – lower right side of page). Even Microsoft Office contains capabilities to help XBRL users access XBRL tagged data.

 The number of available XBRL tools will continue to grow as XBRL use expands around the globe. Already XBRL is being used in SEC filings and Bank FDIC Call Reports in the US, Tax Returns in the United Kingdom, a securities filings in China, stock exchange listings in Tokyo and more. XBRL use will not be limited to financial reporting. Projects are underway to apply XBRL to environmental and sustainability efforts, risk management projects and governmental transparency efforts. To see what’s going on in the world of XBRL see XBRL Planet at http://www.xbrlplanet.org/index.php.

I am sure there are other XBRL tools as well. If you know of other helpful XBRL tools that demonstrate the power of XBRL please share them by adding a comment to this post.

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