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DESIGNING A DYNAMIC PROCESS STRUCTURE OF
FINANCIAL INFORMATION SERVICES BASED ON
XBRL AND WEB SERVICES
Wei-Ting Huang, Ron-Lon Tsai
Department of Information Management, Chang Gung University,
259, Wen-Hwa 1st. Rd, Kwei-Shan Taoyuan 333, Taiwan ROC
Because of advanced technology and the current financial environment, there is a
growing interest in the domain of financial information. The purpose of this paper is
to design a structure that can solve some problems in current financial information
processes. The structure is based on XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting
Language) and Web Services. XBRL plays a role like a bridge to communicate
between systems, organizations, and processes. Web Services allow interoperability
between systems and applications. The concept of dynamic binding is used in this
structure. It makes creation and deployment of additional subprocess components
more easily without the need to modify and redeploy parent processes. This paper also
gives a use case to demonstrate dynamic processes and shows increased benefit. This
paper shows that it can improve the existing systems and processes via adopting new
structure. The structure makes traditional financial information process more flexible
Keyword: XBRL, Web Services, BPEL, Financial Information Process, Financial
After the Asian financial meltdown, it occurred successively that the managements of
companies enronized. In the wake of the Enron bankruptcy and other malfeasance
events, investors became more aware of the disadvantage of financial market.
Because of the current financial environment and advanced technology, there is a
growing interest in the domain of financial information. The Internet and electronic
communication has ensured that information is more freely available than ever before
and that the time it takes to deliver that information has sharply decreased. The key
question however is: How accessible is that information? (Liv, 2004)
In the light of insufficiency of current financial information processes, this paper
provides a structure to improve current processes. This paper brings up a new
structure based on XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) and Web
Services. In addition, the concept of dynamic binding in BPEL (Business Process
Execution Language) is also used in the structure.
The paper listed some problems of financial information processes at present. Then, it
describes XBRL — the standard of financial information exchanges and relevant
technology like Web Services and BPEL. After describing relevant technology, in the
light of the problems designs a new structure. Finally, gives a real world case from
investors’ perspective to explain the new structure. This structure makes financial
information processes integrated, automated, and more flexible.
PROBLEM AT PRESENT
The information technology and the Internet have rapidly developed and that
electronic commerce has become the trend. The information technology has been
applied in different kinds of domains. However, it is insufficient for our needs that
only to store all data in the computer then to exchange information on the Internet. It
still has shortcomings and might cause more other problems. In a finance information
aspect, it doesn’t increase efficiency substantially just to use electronic financial
statement. There are some obvious problems listed below.
Unable to Reuse the Financial Data
Currently, financial data is passed around in a variety of non-interchangeable formats
– HTML, Microsoft Excel documents, text files, and Adobe Acrobat files. These
formats offer no advantage. The data can’t be used or analyzed directly. It needs to
transform received data into the same computable or editable format.
Inefficient Financial Reporting Process
Although e-commerce is a trend, there are still a lot of manual works in financial
processes. For example, the financial reporting process as Fig.1 below, it needs some
manual input then the financial data could be passed over on the Internet. Each step in
the process needs people to check and deliver the information. It is often the case that
haste makes waste. It also wastes much time waiting someone checks then passes the
FIGURE 1: A traditional financial reporting process (Software AG, 2002).
Unable to Communicate between Heterogeneous Systems
It might many actors involved in the financial processes. As financial reporting
process, there are many participators such as the executive, accountants, auditors,
investors. The financial data must be passed over different systems, departments, even
companies. Participated by processes running on heterogeneous platforms from
multiple organizations. However, it is very difficult to communicate between
Multiple and Variable Requirements of Clients
It is possible that participators in the financial supply chain have different kinds of
requirement. How to let user feel satisfied and give them proper information and
services is a great issue. It needs to map differentiated services to the clients who have
different situations and application requirements.
Except for four problems listed above, there are still many problems in traditional
process like reporting has become very rigid, difficult to emphasize certain
IMPORTANT FINANCIAL INFORMATION EXCHANGES STANDARD AND
As the mention before, because of without a proper format for exchanging data, the
financial community has been consistently frustrated by inefficient reporting
processes. It means that a standard for exchanging data is needed. XBRL (eXtensible
Business Reporting Language) is a widely accepted data standard that solves this
dilemma and enables the exchange of uniform financial information between
computer systems, software applications and people (Software AG, 2002).
In order to achieve fast integration and collaboration between applications, the
structure design in this paper is based on Web Services. Moreover, for the sake of
supporting for process automation and integration, this paper provides the way by
having a BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) process. The BPEL process
provides the implementation of the Web Services.
XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language)
XBRL is a sophisticated XML-based framework designed to improve the usefulness
of business and financial data. With XBRL, financial facts, whether numeric or
narrative, are tagged in such a way that computers can ‘understand’ more about those
facts than ever before (Bowne & Co., Inc., 2006).
The XBRL standard defines an electronic format that allows business reporting and
information exchange between parties in an unambiguous way, fast the delivery of
reliable and transparent financial business information. It can be used for your internal
and external reporting purposes. XBRL allows efficient automation of the preparation,
validation, calculation and exchange of financial statements such as balance sheet,
income statements, and statements of cash flows or changes in equity according to
accounting principles like IFRS or US-GAAP (Software AG).
Denver, CO — March 31, 2005 — Solution providers Software AG and Rivet
Software are partnering to offer what they say is the first complete extensible business
reporting language (XBRL) solution for implementing a business reporting supply
chain (Software AG‘s Editorial Staff, 2005). In Fig. 2, there is a financial supply
chain. XBRL plays different roles between processes. For example, XBRL is for
business event reporting between business operations and internal financial reporting.
FIGURE 2: The financial supply chain (http://mywelt.net/?q=node/2522).
Now, to explain how XBRL will work in the process. For example, a financial
information process as Fig. 3 below, it shows that XBRL how to change the
traditional process. The listed companies convert their financial statement into XBRL
by XBRL translator. Then, XBRL information flows could freely across the Internet.
XBRL-tagged data is mapped via XBRL translator and common XBRL vocabulary in
the repository. Finally, investors can easily get the financial information they want
even they are in heterogeneous systems.
1. Listed 3. XBRL information flows
companies freely across the Internet
Translator Common Translator
Financial Vocabulary l analysis
data is mapped
financial data is
converted into XBRL
FIGURE 3: To show how XBRL will work in the process.
Web services provide a standard means of interoperating between different software
applications, running on a variety of platforms and/or frameworks. The Web services
architecture is an interoperability architecture: it identifies those global elements of
the global Web services network that are required in order to ensure interoperability
between Web services (David, 2004).
“Web Services are a standards-based software technology that lets programmers and
integrators combine existing and new systems or applications in new ways over the
Internet, within a company’s boundaries, or across many companies. Web Services
allow interoperability between software written in different programming languages,
developed by different vendors, or running on different operating systems or
platforms (Sophie, 2002).”
The key standards of Web Services include: SOAP (the protocol of information
transmission of Web Services), WSDL (Web Service describe languages), and UDDI
(Web Service is registered and searched).
For example, there are three existing systems as Fig. 4 in the next page. The obvious
problem in this situation is the disparity between these systems. The solution to the
problems faced in this situation is to create a Web Service for all the internal financial
reporting system, external financial reporting system and financial analysis system
that can be invoked via SOAP.
Web Services Platform
Internal External External financial
financial financial reporting System
reporting WS reporting WS
FIGURE 4: A financial example for Web Services architecture.
BPEL (Business Process Execution Language)
Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) allow business processes to be
easily extended through interaction with other business processes and applications.
BPEL processes define this interaction through partner links, which define the
interface (messages and operations), transport protocol, and most important, the
location of each service to be used. In most basic process designs, partner links are
static; they refer to a single external process selected by the developer at design time.
This approach is appropriate for highly targeted or constrained systems (Sean, 2006).
However, in larger systems business processes are more complex. Like financial
information processes, there are many departments, companies, and organizations
involved. Hence a dynamic process is necessary. The BPEL language supports the
concept of dynamic binding of partner links. Dynamic binding allows the developer to
add new services through configuration or run-time inputs. This approach eliminates
the need to anticipate and manage all parent-child relationships at design time (Sean,
This paper provides the structure design applies to financial information domain. The
structure is based on XBRL and Web Services. As Fig. 5 in the next page, there are
many kinds of services such as internal financial reporting WS (Web Service),
external financial reporting WS, financial analysis WS, and investment WS. BPEL is
used to link Web Services to become a process. In real world case, there are many
Web Services and the processes are more complex. The BPEL language supports the
concept of dynamic binding of partner links. The structure also puts in use the concept
of dynamic binding to increase performance. The center of Fig. 5, there is
orchestration and choreography. The term “orchestration” means that an executable
business process describing a flow from the perspective and under control of a single
endpoint. The term “choreography” means that the observable public exchange of
messages, rules of interaction and agreements between two or more business process
endpoints (ORACLE, 2006).
Orchestration & Financial
Internal Financial Choreography Analysis WS
Web Service Adaptor
Translator & Aggregation
Translator & Aggregation Process A
Web service proxy
B Process B
SOAP, XML, XBRL SOAP, XML, XBRL
UDDI Financial Investment
FIGURE 5: The structure that using XBRL, Web Services, and BPEL applies in
the financial information domain.
The BPEL links all the necessary Web Services. Then, find the suitable services in
UDDI. Finally, bind services and invoke.
ILLUSTRATED BY USE CASE
To demonstrate the need and benefit for this structure, we give a real world case .The
case is from investors’ perspective. When an investor wants to buy or sell stock, he
might go through the process like Fig. 6 shown below.
Kinds of Services
Optional Consulting Companies
Provided from Securities Firms
FIGURE 6: A use case from investors’ perspective.
At first, he should choose whether he wants to analysis information first or to invest
directly. If he decides to get some analysis information first, he has to choose the
financial analysis WS which is close to his needs. In addition, he also can choose the
investment consulting company to give him some recommendations and more other
services. After analyzing and deciding which stock to buy, he begins to choose which
securities firm he wants to invest online. In this process, it is concerned with many
Web Services and organizations. When he wants to choose investment analysis
services, investment consulting companies, even securities firms, he has to select the
providers based on input data such as the charge for services, credit history, and
cooperation banks etc. This data is not available at runtime. Using the concept of
dynamic binding here can solve the problem.
<partnerLink name="AnalysisService" partnerLinkType="services:AnalysisService"
<port name="AnalysisServicePort" binding="tns:AnalysisServiceBinding">
<port name="AnalysisServicePort" binding="tns: AnalysisServiceBinding">
<port name="AnalysisServicePort" binding="tns: AnalysisServiceBinding">
FIGURE 7 (a): The sections in DynamicPartnerLink.bpel file.
(b): The sections in bpel.xml file. (c): The sections in AnalysisService.wsdl file.
In Fig. 7 above, Rather than defining a specific analysis service, a generic analysis
service name and type is specified (services: AnalysisService). It is important to know
that there is no "real" service called "AnalysisService." Rather, AnalysisService is a
template from which you select one of the real services (AnalysisA, AnalysisB,
This new structure provides a dynamic process let processes more flexible. New
processes can become more agile and adapt to changing business conditions quickly.
The investors can select Web Services that fit their needs. It is more easily to create
and deploy additional subprocess components, and it is no need to modify and
redeploy parent processes.
The main contribution of this paper is to improve the current processes of financial
information. This paper brings up a new structure based on XBRL and Web Services.
XBRL transforms paper reports into digital documents, and provides an exchange
standard. The process becomes more automated and intelligent. Web Services provide
an interoperability environment. Web Services makes it easier and cheaper to unlock
the value of information contained within existing systems and allows the business to
create seamless processes that are flexible and scaleable. By using the BPEL to link
Web Services becomes a complete process. This new structure solves the problems at
present and makes process dynamic and more flexible, and it also increases benefit
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