A call by the “big four” accounting firms for real-time, internet-based company reporting has received a cautious response from the IT profession.
Last week, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young said static quarterly financial statements should be replaced by real-time, internet-based reporting and include a wider range of business measures.
Ben Booth, vice-chairman of British Computer Society IT directors group Elite, said business practice rather than technology was the biggest barrier to real-time reporting.
“Here is a suggestion that there is going to be a technical solution, but that is a matter for business organisational change,” he said. “If that happens, the technology can accommodate it, but it is not going to happen with technology alone.
“It is a classic case that often comes to IT professionals because they have the skills, but if the business concerned does not appreciate [the business change involved], it can be difficult.”
The paper, which is also supported by Grant Thornton and BDO, extols the virtues of XBRL, a business reporting language related to XML.
“XBRL opens a brave new world of information access and lower costs for users and generators of data alike,” it said. “Some countries, such as China, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK, have required companies to use XBRL.”
However, industry regulator the Financial Services Authority recently decided against using XBRL for companies to file their regulatory returns on the grounds of cost.
FSA IS director Darryl Salmons said, “We were originally thinking that XBRL was the way to go. Then we did a detailed review of what firms were using and of XBRL.”
A spokeswoman for PricewaterhouseCoopers said the paper was designed to start a debate rather than specify technology.
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