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"One Report"


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My presentation to the XBRL 23 conference, in which I outlined my vision of the "One Report," in which companies would manage internal reporting on a real-time basis using XBRL Global Ledger, then seamlessly compile government & other external reports.

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"One Report"

  1. 1. The One Report .. Simple, profitable W. David Stephenson Stephenson Strategies XBRL 23 October 26, 2011Wednesday, November 2, 2011
  2. 2. ISTJ + ENFPWednesday, November 2, 2011 However, first there are a couple of things that you should know about me that weren’t mentioned in the kind introduction. First, I was a religion major in college. While I didn’t become a minister, I did become an evangelist -- an evangelist for change. Second, if you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, most accountants are ISTJs -- Introspective, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging, which is justwhat I want in someone who is responsible for making certain that business processes are followed to the letter of the law, and with unquestioned accuracy. Thatmakes you the exact opposite of me, Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving. In my mind, that means that we will each benefit from cross-fertilizing of eachother’s unique way of looking at the world. Today I want to use that differing perspective, and my status as an outsider, to introduce you to a different way oflooking at XBRL than you, who work with it so intensely in one setting, may not be aware of.
  3. 3. Wednesday, November 2, 2011 Also, I’m a cheap Yankee: a Scot living in New England. That means that I’m terminally thrifty.
  4. 4. What’s in it for me?Wednesday, November 2, 2011 Remember how I said I was a cheap Yankee? If I’m forced to pay for something, such as tagging my regulatory reports with XBRL, I want to make darn surethat I’m getting the most out of my investment. As of now, it looks like everyone’s a winner with XBRL but me: the regulatory agencies have an easier time,consumers can make apples-to-apples comparisons between investments, and all I have to show for it is an additional overhead cost and additional responsibilities.What’s in it for me?
  5. 5. What about XBRL GL?Wednesday, November 2, 2011 It seems to me, as an outsider, that we’ve lost sight of the most powerful aspect of XBRL, the ability to use it behind the firewall in the form of XBRL GlobalLedger, where it can be used to give detailed information on your company’s transactions that can on one hand be used to provide real-time information on yourtransactions, and, on the other, can make preparation of regulatory reports in native XBRL almost automatic.
  6. 6. XBRL = regulationsWednesday, November 2, 2011I fear that many feel that the XBRL battle is over, and we have won. It has become a standard, the SEC now requires XBRL filings, several countries have enactedStandard Business Reporting, and regulators world wide are implementing XBRL requirements. In other words, XBRL now equals regulations.
  7. 7. Crucial for today’s challenges •give workers real-time data •automate processes •cut reporting costs •improve regulation •restore public trust •make people partnersWednesday, November 2, 2011 The result will be change and benefits in every aspect of our lives: changes that are particularly critical given the current global challenges,and which will improve our lives: They will give workforces real-time information to help them make better decisions and carry out their responsibilities more effectively. They will automate previously manual processes, saving time and increasing efficiency. They will improve government regulatory processes by making access to reports instantaneous and shareable by all agencies. Seemingly at odds with the previous benefit, they will also reduce companies’ regulatory compliance costs. They will restore badly-eroded confidence in government and industry through transparency . They will empower the public to be full partners in business and government.
  8. 8. The One ReportWednesday, November 2, 2011 This would allow what I call “The One Report,” which I believe is uniquely suited to the challenges that companies and governments alike face in the current global economic crisis. The One Report would begin with internal use of XBRL GL on a daily basis, and then the data would be aggregated with minimal effort to meet regulatory reporting demands. On the government end, governments would do their part as well. They would follow the lead of the Netherlands and Australia, and give companies the time and money-saving option of submitting a single Standard Business Reporting filing.
  9. 9. Data-centric organizationWednesday, November 2, 2011 Most of the steps I am going to tell you about are probably second-nature to Google: bear in mind that they are entirely new to mostorganizations. The first step to begin this transition is a strategic one: it’s time to switch to data-centric organization, in which usable data is accessible topeople, applications and devices, automatically, and all of the organization’s functions are visualized as revolving around the data.
  10. 10. Tag and syndicate dataWednesday, November 2, 2011 The second step to liberate data is to assure that the data you have is valuable. That means that, instead of becoming captured and altered by applications,it must remain as “data nuggets,” accessible to all applications, people, and machines that can act on it. To create data nuggets we must structure data using XML,KML or other taxonomies that attach tags such as the XBRL-GL ones you see here, to the numbers. This metadat transforms mere numbers into valuable data thatcan flow anywhere the tags are repeated. As you know, one of the most important aspects of metadata and data can be automatically shared. That reduces errors because the data doesn’t have to berekeyed: you get a “single version of the truth.” It also means we can begin to ask a new question: where else can this data create value, within our company or with our customers or suppliers? Copyingthe tags in these locations lets the data flow automatically to other places it can create value. I can’t emphasize it enough: if data is tagged the first time it occurs in your operations, it doesn’t have to be entered again. How valuable is that?
  11. 11. Provide toolsWednesday, November 2, 2011 Next, the data is worthless, especially to those among us who are part of the great unwashed, without easy-to-use Web 2.0 based tools that will allow us tocollaboratively analyze, interpret, and act on the data. I emphasize collaborative tools, because they introduce the “wisdom of crowds” phenomenon, in which richer, more nuanced interpretations of the datagradually emerge due to back-and-forth between a number of those participating in the discussion. Incidentally, this happens to be the first data visualization that I ever did, using Many Eyes. A rank amateur, I was able to scrape the data, upload it, andcreate this visualization in less than an hour.
  12. 12. Get workers dataWednesday, November 2, 2011 Curiously, although a growing range of government agencies release public data streams, almost none provide them to their own workforces, to give workers actionable data precisely when and where they need it, to do their work more efficiently. The fourth element of an effective liberating data strategy is for agencies -- and corporations -- to follow the District of Columbias lead, and apply the same strategy behind the firewall first, giving workers access to the same data they disclose in public data feeds. After all, employees may be struggling with incompatible data bases, may need to reach across departmental “silos” to see if there might be synergies between programs, and employees from another department may be able to provide new insights simply because of their differing life experiences and expertise. As more young workers, who have never known life without the Web, join workforces, they’ll naturally ask why tools they’ve used can’t be used in the workplace. A data graphics project can empower them and tap their expertise. Finally, using the same data feeds to run your organization that agencies and companies furnish through external data feeds to the public and others can be a powerful way of earning public trust: you’re in essence saying we stand behind this data: we’re so confident in it that we use the same data to run our daily operations as we furnish to you.
  13. 13. Government follows suitWednesday, November 2, 2011 Governmental bodies should take exactly the same steps, for exactly the same reasons, as businesses. The benefits will be the same: workers will get the real-time information they need to do their jobs more efficiently, and they will be able to automate previously manual processes. Equally important, when both government and business are operating using XBRL GL, there will be important synergies. As has been the case in theNetherlands and Australia, companies filing Standard Business Reports should have significant savings in regulatory compliance. Somewhat counter-intuitively,reducing regulatory burdens should be accompanied by better regulation, because a variety of agencies will be able to break down their silos and analyze all of agiven company’s filings simultaneously, instead of in isolation. Equally important, as the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, filed in the US by Rep. Darrell Issa, would do, requiring government agencies tooperate and report using XBRL GL would help rebuild their credibility with the electorate, both through more frequent reporting and greater accuracy.
  14. 14. CrowdsourceWednesday, November 2, 2011 Remember, what I’m talking about here is my vision of The One Report, not a present reality. While all of the elements of such a system are proven, no one has yet taken concrete steps toward making it a reality. Yet, I am optimistic that the many benefits for all involved and the relative simplicity of the course I suggest will make The One Report an eventual reality. Let me close by suggesting one outside-the-box way in which the daunting task of retroactively tagging a company’s data with XBRL GL might be achieved. Instead of delegating the task to consultants, or perhaps to your already over-burdened accounting staff, what if each employee was given figurative ownership of the data he or she was responsible for entering, and if a variety of easily understood tools could be created that would allow non-specialists to accurately tag the data? I’m just idealistic enough to think that it should be possible to explain GAAP rules and XBRL GL tags in ways that non-specialists could understand. Let me go one step further, and suggest that the new field of gamification might be brought to bear on the issue, adding some competition between workers, and giving either symbolic or perhaps even monetary rewards to those employees who do the best job of mapping their data to XBRL tags, and perhaps going beyond that, providing answers to the question I posed earlier: “where else could this data create value?”
  15. 15. Reason for optimismWednesday, November 2, 2011 One reason for optimism that your workforce might be equal to this task is the way that users of a wide range of social media, from Flickr to Twitter have been quick to adopt tagging data. In this case, use of the #wxreport tag assures that the U.S. National Weather Service’s computers will receive Tweets referring to breaking local weather observations, making the public valuable adjuncts to other information sources. If this kind of alteration in user behavior can happen spontaneously, imagine what could happen if there were formal programs designed to educate and guide them!
  16. 16. To learn more about The One Report, contact: W. David Stephenson Stephenson Strategies 335 Main Street, Medfield, MA 02052 USA 508 740-8918 .. and read “Data Dynamite: how liberating information will transform our world”Wednesday, November 2, 2011 So that is my vision of The One Report. As I said at the beginning, I think the combination of you ISTJs, firmly rooted in reality and practicality, and visionary ENFPs such as me can make this vision, with all of its manifold benefits for all parties involved, a reality. Remember: all of the components I mentioned are already a reality -- the challenge is for us to work together to link them in new ways. Because we are talking essentially about data that once entered can flow automatically everywhere, I am convinced that this is not a flight of fancy, but the logical evolution of XBRL from a compliance tool to a license for companies to print money. Thank you! To learn more about the One Report and how to create the processes and policies to make it a reality, contact: Stephenson Strategies 335 Main Street, Medfield, MA 02052 (617) 314-7858