The bottom bar showed all segments shrinking, except - a very important 'except' - the Company segment. It looked something like this (reconstructed from faulty memory).
|Who benefits from XBRL - 2003|
XBRL will increase transparency, and will deliver massive benefits to regulators and investors. As it becomes more widely entrenched and systems are built that will exploit the power of tagged information for credit risk, the banking community will take up XBRL and use it widely. This will benefit businesses by improving access to credit at rates commensurate with their financial health and potential. As systems integrate XBRL into the 'front end', operational efficiencies will be achieved by companies. This they will happily pay for.
Unfortunately we also know that Detailed Tagging is going to impose significant cost on businesses, at little or no tangible benefit to the companies that are required to pay for their reports to be detail tagged.
An issue I've had from my very first XBRL meeting has been a Big-4/Consultant agenda of "let them spend (on our consultants), while we tell the world how good this will be for them". That has been the message from all the Big-4. At that time I was at Grant Thornton, a great firm. And a firm that was focused on the "middle market", not on the biggest companies.
I had come to that meeting almost directly from a meeting with a nice little company ($50 million turnover) and watched how they managed every penny, looking at specific metrics, and providing the reporting that they needed to. They felt (and I quietly agreed) that the Audit required of them was a pure overhead, because they could not see the benefit to them - other than access to credit. So their audit was at the lowest price they could manage, and there were no frills. In fact, there were few frills in their offices, including the President's and the CFO's offices. Oh, and the CFO had three staff, total.
I then went to the XBRL meeting, and listened to (name redacted) talk about how everyone downstream was going to get benefit - the banks, the regulators, the auditors, the investors... Everyone else was either reducing their risk, increasing their own effectiveness, or improving their return on investment. Everyone except the president of that $50million metal stamping business. And when I asked what would be the benefit to him, (name redacted) scowled and repeated the benefits to the banks, etc. I repeated my question, and that was the moment that (name redacted) and I became "friends".
I am still, 8 years later, waiting for anyone to tell me how the president of that small metal stamping business is going to actually see, in bottom line terms, the benefits from the money that they are required to spend on XBRL. Certainly there will be benefits, but not from creating XBRL for external consumption.
In fact, adding insult to injury, the same basic chart of can still be found here - XBRL - What are the Benefits. There is no date on the page. Maybe, just maybe, this is out of date and there is a new chart with benefits to the producer of the XBRL (the one who is paying).
The (minimal) tagging requirement from the SEC seems reasonable to me - to enable the SEC to regulate the markets and reduce risk. Detailed tagging, simply put, provides benefit to a few downstream while imposing the costs on the producer of the information.
So I'll be blunt - the Big-4 and the large companies that advocate Detailed Tagging are out of touch with the smaller filers. Businesses that are coming out of recession, and are happy to have survived, and are now looking to grow again. And they survived by watching every penny, taking the difficult decisions, sometimes very painful decisions. They don't waste money. If they are going to choose to spend it, they want to know what they're getting for that money. Not what someone else will get for their money, but what return they will get for their money.
I could use the word "investment" - but really, we're talking about money. Limited money.
So is anyone surprised that the $2500/year XBRL vendors are bringing in the clients? They shouldn't be surprised. The sad thing is that many of the purchasers at $2500/year are in for a nasty surprise when the discover the real level of effort on their part, and the very real danger of missing SEC deadlines for lack of resources.
XBRL is complex, and expensive - either in external costs, internal costs, or a combination. Total costs will fall, but there is probably going to be some real pain along the way.
For more information on XBRL offerings, visit us at www.raas-XBRL.com or pick up a copy of our 2011 XBRL Buyers Guide.