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The XBRL mandate is here: Is IT ready?

The XBRL mandate is here: Is IT ready?

The first stage of the reporting requirement isn't tech-heavy, but IT's involvement will need to grow

The IT role will grow further as ERP and other financial applications begin to integrate XBRL into their platforms. While it is a financial decision as to how to tag the data and reports, it will be up to IT to understand the implications of the how the software works with data and other applications -- especially when a company has multiple ERP and financial systems due to mergers and acquisitions, notes Blaszkowsky. "XBRL is a powerful tool to apply, and it is in part a financial team and a technology team decision," he says.

IT has a role to help automate processes using XBRL

Beyond reporting, enterprises can use XBRL to enforce consistent financial processes through its ERP and financial systems. UTC has been exploring this in its quest to achieve a "zero-day" financial close, in which it can issue accurate, up-to-the-minute financial reporting at any time.

Such an effort begins when companies start looking at all of the manual processes used during the "last mile" of financial reporting so that they can understand what might be automated, says PricewaterhouseCoopers' Willis.

The automated assembly of reports and collaborative review of documents, along with the aggregation of all notes and MD&A (management discussion and analysis) disclosures are just a few of the areas where XBRL implementations, with the help of IT, can make a huge difference in accessing financial data, increasing collaboration during the report-making process, and reducing the final time to complete a report, Willis says.

It also gives all those involved the ability to drill down to lower-level systems to access information needed to explain changes in the business. For example, rather than doing the traditional linear review in which case documents are e-mailed to a review committee and "some poor sucker has to aggregate all the responses," Willis says, XBRL will allow IT to create a Wikipedia-like structure.

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