September 29, 2010 – Despite efforts for industry to use Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) to make financial data more transparent and more easily used, agency use of this software language has not been widely adopted. According to Danny Werfel, controller of the Office of Management and Budget, and director of the Office of Federal Financial Management, the use of XBRL in agency financials is a work in progress.

This was brought to our attention by Federal News Radio and their piece titled, “Agencies struggle to make data transparent.”  Both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are in the second year of a three-year pilot project to have large-scale corporate financials tagged with XBRL. The tags enable analysis of those financials to detect the economic health of a company. Werfel commented on the remaining logistical hurdles: “It’s really about looking at those areas where the robust data structures are already in place, as a best practice, and looking for other areas to expand those robust data standards, and data taxonomy, and in places like basic accounting and financial statement reporting. We’re not there yet.” It is an evolving project and no agency is at the same level of progress.

This is a huge project and the end result will be a powerful tool for all users, but it also reminds us of how serious metatagging can be and how much work is involved in building quality taxonomies.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.