Step Back Because It’s Too Hard?

Being a member of the Data Transparency Coalition has some interesting benefits, not the least of which is, insight to activities happening on Washington’s Capitol Hill that are directly related to data. There are times for those of us who believe in the power of open, transparent data to rejoice, such the DATA Act being passed by the U.S. House on November 18, 2013, moving it one step closer to becoming law, and there are days of scratching heads wondering, “where did THAT come from?”

Today is one of those latter days. Reading a blog from Hudson Hollister, founder and Executive Director of the coalition, I learned of a proposed bill intended to exempt a large number of small businesses from using a data standard called XBRL as the approved means to file company financial statements to the SEC. For sure, this in one of those times I’m found scratching my head.

I’ve been a cross-breed technologist/marketer for, well, a long time, and I’ll be thefirst one to admit, getting standards implemented properly does take time, effort and skill. However, in the long run, the benefits usually FAR outweigh the challenges.

Being associated with XBRL for the past 8 years, I can state with some authority, this is a complex standard. However, it is being used quite successfully in a number of implementations around the world. However, it does seem to be getting some negative press with regards to the SEC’s use of the standard. And the response on the Hill? Exempt some companies from the need to adhere to the standard.


The reason he standard was introduced to begin with was the process of filing of financial statements to the SEC was fraught with errors, fraud and the collected data was all but unusable because there was no uniform means to digest it into the SEC’s systems. And now the answer is, “Let’s go back to the way it was.” Why? Because it’s hard? Granted, it IS hard. But, perhaps, rather than leap backwards, maybe the SEC could take a note from other success stories around the world and implement XBRL in a way that will lead to success.

For more details, read Hudson’s blog. He does a great job outlining the benefits to all of us to squashing this proposal here and now.

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