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  1. 1. 1 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 b9144032@stmail.cgu.edu.tw rltsai@mail.cgu.edu.tw , ABSTRACT 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 and automated. Keyword: XBRL, Web Services, BPEL, Financial Information Process, Financial Supply Chain. INTRODUCTION 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
  2. 2. 2 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 financial data. 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 heterogeneous systems. 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.
  3. 3. 3 Except for four problems listed above, there are still many problems in traditional process like reporting has become very rigid, difficult to emphasize certain information etc. IMPORTANT FINANCIAL INFORMATION EXCHANGES STANDARD AND RELEVANT TECHNOLOGY 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.
  4. 4. 4 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 5. Investors companies freely across the Internet XBRL XBRL Translator Common Translator XBRL Financia Financial Vocabulary l analysis statement tools XBRL Repository 4. XBRL-tagged 2. Companies’ data is mapped financial data is converted into XBRL FIGURE 3: To show how XBRL will work in the process. Web Services 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
  5. 5. 5 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 financial Internal External External financial reporting System financial financial reporting System WS Adaptor reporting WS reporting WS WS Adaptor SOAP Financial analysis WS WSDL UDDI 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, 2006). STRUCTURE DESIGN
  6. 6. 6 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). Dynamic Binder & Invoker Orchestration & Financial Internal Financial Choreography Analysis WS Reporting WS Process Flow Web Service Adaptor Analysis Translator & Aggregation Translator & Aggregation Process A Web service proxy A Analysis B Process B BPEL C Analysis ‧‧‧ Process C SOAP, XML, XBRL SOAP, XML, XBRL WSDL External UDDI Financial Investment Reporting WS WS 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.
  7. 7. 7 START Choose What Kinds of Services Choose Financial Analysis WS Choose Investment Optional Consulting Companies Choose Investment WS Provided from Securities Firms FINISH 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. (a) <partnerLink name="AnalysisService" partnerLinkType="services:AnalysisService" myRole="AnalysisServiceRequester" partnerRole="AnalysisServiceProvider"/> (b) <partnerLinkBinding name="AnalysisService"> <property name="wsdlLocation">AnalysisService.wsdl</property> </partnerLinkBinding> (c)
  8. 8. 8 <service name="AnalysisA"> <port name="AnalysisServicePort" binding="tns:AnalysisServiceBinding"> <soap:address location="http://localhost:9700/orabpel/default/AnalysisALoan"/> </port> </service> <service name="AnalysisB"> <port name="AnalysisServicePort" binding="tns: AnalysisServiceBinding"> <soap:address location="http://localhost:9700/orabpel/default/AnalysisBLoan"/> </port> </service> <service name="AnalysisC"> <port name="AnalysisServicePort" binding="tns: AnalysisServiceBinding"> <soap:address location="http://localhost:9700/orabpel/default/AnalysisCLoan"/> </port> </service> 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, AnalysisC). 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. CONCLUSION 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 and performance. REFERENCES Booth, D., Haas, H., McCabe, F., Newcomer, E., Champion, M., Ferris, C., & Orchard, D. 2004. Web Services architecture – W3C working group note 11 February 2004. http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/NOTE-ws-arch-20040211/. 2006 (Jan 27). Bowne & Co., Inc. 2006. What is XBRL and how does it work? Bowne financial print. http://www.bowne.com/financialprint/xbrl_WhatIs.asp? src=XBRLfeature. 2006 (Jan 27).
  9. 9. 9 Carey, S. SOA best practices: the BPEL cookbook – Part 3: Making BPEL processes dynamic. Oracle technology network. http://www.oracle.com/technology/pub/articles/bpel_cookbook/carey.html. 2006 (Jan 22). Mayo, S. J. 2002. Web Services – IDC. http://www.jeckle.de/webServices/. 2006 (Jan 23). ORACLE. BPEL: Building standards-based business processes with Web Services. 2006 (Jan 25). Software AG – The XML Company. Automation of the business information supply chain. http://xbrl.softwareag.es/site/EN/Docs/FS_XBRL_ENG_Q404.pdf. 2006 (Jan 22). Software AG – The XML Company. 2002. Understanding the XML standard for business reporting and finance – white paper. http://www.sfc.hk/sfc/html/EN/xbrl/abtxbrl/benefits/SoftwareAG- CaseForXBRL.pdf. 2006 (Jan 27). Software AG‘s Editorial Staff. 2005. Leveraging XBRL for the information supply chain. Supply & demand chain executive. http://www.sdcexec.com/article.asp?article_id=6958. 2006 (Jan 22). Watson, L. 2004. A new era for financial analysis has arrived. AICPA viewpoint. https://www.cpa2biz.com/News/Viewpoint/XBRL+A+New+Era+for+Financia l+Analysis+Has+Arrived.htm. 2006 (Jan 23).