07 September 2011

Okay, I've been away a while

Yes, I took the month "off"'. I avoided most things XBRL (and even many things CSR). I chilled. And I liked it. Sure, I read the XBRL Google Alert every day, as well as the other 10 - 12 that I get. But instead of reading almost everything, there were days when the headlines were enough for me to say "na, nothing of interest here...'

And it has been a wonderful and liberating month off.

Lets face it, XBRL is interesting, and it might actually eventually amount to something. But then again, it could just as well be a slightly interesting information cul-de-sac. Sort of like the Multics operating system, or the ADA programming language. Both were hot. One because it was very good, but complex. The other because it was mandated by the US Federal Government for ALL systems.

Both turned out to be interesting cul-de-sacs. Sure, they helped show the way (from the wikipedia article: "Bell Labs pulled out of the project in 1969; some of the people who had worked on it there went on to create the Unix system. Multics development continued at MIT and General Electric."). But eventually they disappeared when technology leapfrogged. They were the leapfrogs, but somehow got left behind.

And the month off has reminded me that this will probably happen to XBRL, and sooner than we think.

There are thousands of applications under development every day for the iPod/iPad/iThingy, and thousands more being written for the cloud (on Google Apps, Yahoo, MSN, etc). And you don't even need XBRL if you want to download a public companies financial statements into Excel. There's a 'right-click' for that right in the browser. Where are the XBRL applications?

And as for XBRL either solving or avoiding the next financial crisis - well that's just a fantasy.  No data standard will in any way influence or impact what is really a crisis of confidence based on the results of years of those with the data lying to those who trusted them. XBRL would not have avoided the last crisis (or the next one) - no data standard will.

So I think I'll spend a bit more time with sunsets, and a bit more time worrying about how companies can actually make a difference. How they can be more effectively controlled and how they can manage risk more effectively.

Oh, I'm still going to be 'all over' XBRL, even if only to watch it slowly fade into irrelevance and shift farther back into that corner of the business known as "compliance". You know, the area that costs us too much money while only delivering value to someone-else somewhere-else.

And I'm still going to read the articles that tell us how one day, any day now, companies will be using XBRL to drive internal process improvements - something they have been completely unable to do using their existing ERP systems that they have paid millions to install, maintain, improve and use. "Here, just take this little pill (XBRL) and all your ERP efficiency and effectiveness ills will be cured".  It doesn't work that way. Never did, never will.

But we can go on dreaming. Hell, maybe I shouldn't go on holiday, maybe I should just keep dreaming about what XBRL might do...

But, this not being a complete dream-life, I've made myself a few commitments. I commit to:

1. continuing to provide the best service to our XBRL clients
2. ignore those those who fantasise (or lie) about what XBRL may do. They have agendas that are disconnected from the actual needs of those that will have to pay.
3. continue to raise questions - like "So when will XBRL International actually produce their own financials in XBRL?" If it is so easy and cheap, you'd think the very standards organization would use their own standard.
4. continue to wonder when, over a year later, the 'new' XII website will be announced

Rats! - I shouldn't have written that list, I think I need another holiday!