On April 30, Sawyer Business School’s Center for Business Complexity & Global Leadership hosted a conference to discuss how eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) can play a role in business complexity.

The conference, “Structured Financial Data in the Age of Complexity: Exploring XBRL use and application Today and into the Future,” discussed the potential advantages of standardizing financial reporting.

The implementation of XBRL is a hot topic in today’s global marketplace. Lewis Shaw, chair and associate professor of accounting, and Ariel Markelevich, associate professor of accounting at the Sawyer Business School, have studied the success of XBRL in Israel. Although they found some disparities between the XBRL and original filings, Shaw and Markelevich consider it to be the future of accounting.

The first guest speaker, Mike Willis, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, explained that standardized financial reporting facilitates transparency and collaboration, which leads to increased efficiency and accuracy. "Embracing these new ideas of standardization on the supply chain is something that will generate long-term opportunities,” he said.

As the founder and executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition, Hudson Hollister supports federal data reform. “Governments have a lot of problems that can be solved by standardization,” he said. Hollister helped write the DATA Act, which opens federal spending data to the public. The legislation was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday and will now be sent to the Senate.

Eric E. Cohen, co-founder of XBRL, discussed the current gaps in the business reporting supply chain. XBRL is intended to "revolutionize" business reporting for everyone involved, but modifications are necessary to span the gaps and improve processes, he said.

Olivier Servais, director of XBRL Activities at the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation, discussed the future of XBRL, emphasizing its global potential. With more than 120 countries adopting IFRS, most are using XBRL and the IFRS taxonomy, he said.

Additional speakers, included:

•J. Louis Matherne, chief of taxonomy development at Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)
•Hamid Benbrahim, vice president and head of the Center for Applied Complexity at Fidelity Investments
•Max Mansur, senior manager at SWIFT
•Brad J. Monterio, managing director for Colcom Group Inc.
•Arnon Rosenthal, principal scientist at The MITRE Corporation
•Said Tabet, member of the standards community involved in software initiatives worldwide
•Miklos A. Vasarhelyi, KPMG professor of Accounting Information Systems and director of the Continuous Auditing and Reporting Laboratory (CARLAB) at Rutgers University, and technology consultant at the AT&T Laboratories
•Liv Apneseth Watson, director of International Business Development at WebFilings
•Ami Beers, manager in the Business Reporting, Assurance and Advisory Services Team at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
•David Blaszkowsky, senior policy advisor for the Office of Financial Research, US Department of the Treasury
•Walter Hamscher, IT Manager of Taxonomies and Technology Development for the US Securities and Exchange Commission
•Joseph P. Luczka, director for KPMG
•Suzanne Morsfield, director of research at the Columbia Business School's Center for Excellence in Accounting and Security Analysis (CEASA)
•Christine Tan, assistant professor at Fordham University
•Raul Varela, vice president of Strategic Initiative, Rivet Software