XBRL-tagged financials are required now for companies that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, starting with the largest. By 2011, all public companies will use XBRL tagging for their SEC filings. It's a built-in adjustment period, or learning curve, of sorts.
Along with an adjustment period, new requirements tend to bring new business. Specifically, consultancies and experts pop up to offer their services to those who are subject to the new requirement. The same is true with XBRL. For instance, last week, the Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation released a new white paper explaining what the adoption of XBRL means for internal auditors. Compliance Week writer Melissa Aguilar says "XBRL: What's in It for Internal Auditors?" explains the new filing requirements and also discusses implementation methods and how auditors can be involved in the XBRL adoption process.
There are also resources for others who aren't as involved or as interested in the technicalities. On that side of the spectrum, we find "XBRL for Dummies." This week I spoke with one of the book's authors, William So, the director of the XBRL Business Unit at Hitachi America. He said he and his colleague wrote the book to explain how XBRL can be used, but they stayed away from the technical discussions. He told me:
I like to use this analogy. Say you're driving a car. You don't need to know about the timing operations of the internal combustion engine. Or, if you like mechanical watches, you can appreciate the beauty, the intricacy of the mechanisms, but you don't necessarily have to know how to take it apart and put it back together.
So the book explains that XBRL can be used for compliance -- as in financial filings with the SEC. However, if it is used with operational data as well as financial data, it can be used to give companies across different industries a more complete view of their various businesses in terms of performance and planning for the future.