When the Securities and Exchange Commission first introduced the idea of public companies providing their financial data in interactive form, the point was to make the data more accessible for investors. Ted Uehlinger, from the SEC's Office of Interactive Disclosure, told me at the time:
Interactive data pinpoints the facts and figures trapped in often lengthy disclosure documents, allowing investors to immediately pull out the exact information they desire, and instantly compare it to the results of other companies.
Critics weren't so sure it would add much value, but the SEC ended up adopting an XBRL reporting requirement late in 2008. As a result, public companies of all sizes have begun or plan to report their financial data to the regulator using XBRL. The largest companies began filing XBRL-tagged data for fiscal periods ending on or after June 15, 2009, and the remaining companies are being "phased in" over the next year and a half, according to the SEC.
XBRL US and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants recently used an online questionnaire to survey representatives from 200 public companies and found that most did or are starting early to file in XBRL. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they have begun to prepare for XBRL adoption. The survey also revealed it's a good thing they start early. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said preparing the documents the first time using XBRL took more than 120 hours. However, the prep time decreases significantly for subsequent filings, as 64 percent of those filing the second time said it took fewer than 40 hours.
XBRL US Chief Standards Officer Campbell Pryde notes:
It's clear from this survey that external reporting managers recognize the importance of the XBRL creation process and are taking early steps to get educated. The same care and attention to detail that go into the preparation of any report going to investors and regulators must be applied on the XBRL documents.