Switching to structured (XBRL) data after using HTML versions of financial filings is like trading in your flip phone for an iPhone 7. Wow. Suddenly you can do things you never thought possible. Flip phones were only good for making calls. Today’s phones can make calls, snap pictures, roam the Internet, play music and text – all at the same time. And that’s just for starters!
For organizations and individuals who work directly with data, using XBRL data can be that dramatic. But most investors get their data through commercial data providers and are not even aware if the data they access is derived from XBRL files or from HTML files.
Commercial providers pull company SEC filings and post data into their databases. They may further massage the information, e.g., normalizing dates, creating further aggregations that their clients find useful, combining multiple datasets like price/volume information or financials from non-US companies, to expand the analytical possibilities. When the data they pull is already in computer-readable format (XBRL), the timeliness and granularity of the data is substantially improved. And so is the experience for the buy-side and sell-side analysts, hedge funds and others that subscribe to their services.
XBRL US has posted to their web site several examples of individuals and organizations that have used XBRL formatted data and have experienced the significant data improvements and time savings:
- Research analyst
- Professor overseeing a student-run investment firm
- Commercial data provider
- Audit firm
They were happy to trade in their flip phones (metaphorically speaking) and are only beginning to learn all the ways they can gain from structured data. Check out this infographic to get more details about how each user gained from making the switch.