Rapid Change Needs Supporting Standards: Reflections on the Future of Business Reporting

Posted on April 22, 2021 by John Turner

A post by John Turner, CEO of XBRL International.

Last week we ran the first Data Amplified Virtual event, enjoying great content and some superb speakers. Thank you very much to everyone that was involved. I thought it might be helpful to set out my own reflections on some of the issues that came together at the event.

The world is changing fast. What does that mean for reporting? For a start, it’s going to become more important!

For example, it should be entirely within the central estimate of our reasonable assumptions to expect that:

  • The tendency of users of all kinds to use analytic tools to compare, contrast and identify unusual behaviour and performance – both good and bad – will dominate and accelerate.
  • Regulated and unregulated companies and government and third sector organisations will all rely more on a wider range of metrics to manage their business, as well as to communicate with stakeholders.
  • Real-time digital analytics inside the business will be what drives performance. Of course, that may well mean that disclosure norms need to keep pace with those developments.
  • Measurement and actions on issues that might seem third order today will be front and centre. Think about, for example, radically expanded carbon emissions trading touching not just power plants and airlines, but hospitals, house construction and even bureaucracies. Think about cyber security not just as an IT problem, but as an anchor tenant within our increasingly digitised organisations.
  • Lengthy supply chains, far flung corporate structures and increasingly complex logistics will prevail. They are likely to build in more redundancy, more diversity and may be more regionally interdependent. They won’t get simpler after the pandemic.

For all of these reasons, users will require performance information in structured format, or in a format that can be easily structured. New technologies – and new trust mechanisms – will support these new realities, but they won’t be effective without standards.

Standards come in several flavours. The ones we are interested in are those that are open and freely licensed, and those that build up a network effect through an ecosystem of interoperable tools and a strong global skillset. So XBRL is well placed to support these changes, but we are not, and must not become, complacent. We need to make sure that the standard – and the ecosystem – is ready, willing and able to meet all of these new data challenges.

Looking ahead, here at XBRL International we feel fortunate to be part of this terrific, collaborative and truly global community, and we welcome reporting and data professionals from everywhere to join us. We hope that if you were with us at Data Amplified you’ll have encountered a number of ideas that might help you with your own innovation and solve your own problems. For registered attendees, don’t forget that you have 90 days from the event to watch session replays, so please do take full advantage of our expert speakers – and we’d appreciate your feedback via the online survey too.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be bringing you a series of feature and guest posts, revisiting and delving into some of the news, innovations and insights shared at Data Amplified, so watch this space for more dispatches from the cutting edge!

Thank you once again to our Data Amplified co-hosts and platinum sponsors PwC and Workiva, gold sponsor AICPA & CIMA, and silver sponsors AMANA Consulting GmbH, Invoke and The Zeal. We could not have run the event, let alone free for 750 people from 53 countries, without them!

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