Downloads “Analyst Ready” XBRL data into Excel via the web for multi-filing comparisons across companies or over time. The way the data is downloaded is designed to maximise both comparability and transparency.
Jim Truscott firstname.lastname@example.org
Why XBRL to XL? – the premise behind the application
XBRL data as we currently experience it from the SEC is not “Analyst Ready”. It exists in multiple unreadable files. You can view it as an Excel Financial Report (See example for Microsoft here) but without the tags, this is little better than viewing it in its original html.
For data to be “Analyst Ready”, the data has to be in the right place, comparable & transparent. XBRL to XL does this.
An analyst is ready and waiting to see the data in Excel and so XBRL to XL is only concerned with this simple but essential requirement. XBRL to XL is not a fancy bit of software; it does one thing and it aims to do it with the minimum of fuss, efficiently putting comparable transparent data on the desktop.
When a company prepares a financial report, it’s principal aim is not to create comparable data but a narrative that best explains its financial position and its potential for changing it. XBRL helps to close the comparability gap but this isn’t a guarantee or automatic. XBRL to XL worries about these issues so analysts don’t have to. This is dirty and time consuming work. XBRL to XL plans to free the Analyst from this to concentrate on what they do best. In time XBRL to XL will address changing taxonomies, different taxonomies, accounting policies and international accounting issues. It has already begun to address the issue of taxonomy extensions. XBRL to XL will fix the comparability issues that can be fixed and highlight those that can’t.
Historically analysts have often wanted to handle the data themselves so they could feel it’s quality and assure themselves that the data they saw in their ratios came from a trusted source. This lack of trust stemmed from knowing that any third parties would employ error prone human hands to prepare the data. With XBRL, analysts can now relax at the front end, knowing the clean data driving their models has been untainted by human input – providing of course they know they can always quickly check the source. XBRL to XL aims to provide this level of automatic re-assurance through its obsession with transparency. This is how it is able to highlight the issue of taxonomy extensions.
XBRL to XL considers it’s “job done” when the data reaches Excel. Excel is a superb analytical tool, whose customisable features need no replication. All “XBRL to XL” does is deliver the data in a template that makes XBRL accessible and transparent to all that marvellous functionality.
In short XBRL to XL unlocks the potential of XBRL in Excel.
More details about the development of the thoughts and ideas behind “XBRL to XL” can be found on the XBRL to XL blog.
Using XBRL to XL – a step by step guide
This step by step guide is also available here as a series of short videos.
XBRL to XL is very simple to use. Essentially there are only 2 steps: selecting the filings (on which you wish to base your comparisons) and then hooking these up to your model once the data gets to the other side (reaches Excel).
Go to xbrlxl.com and login or register. Why do you need to login? Well the application is still in beta and so errors may occur. We can track these errors and alert you via email as soon as a fix is available. Registration is really simple – just enter an email address & choose any password and you are away. No forms, no email confirmations – you are automatically logged in and ready to go.
The application will download a spreadsheet with up to five filings of XBRL data stored in separate sheets. In future there will be the option to access this data directly from Excel via the XBRL to XL web service. Why five? Five is meaningful but is actually an arbitrary limit. It would be perfectly possible to download more at a time in future if there is a demand.
The spreadsheet is an xls (and not an xlsx) to make it as accessible to as many versions of Excel or other spreadsheet packages as possible.
Selecting the filings
On the top left hand side of the main window you have the search box. Enter the details of each filing you wish to include. You don’t need to be too specific. For example XBRL to XL will create a pick list of all the companies which meet your criteria below the search box if there is more than one. The more specific you can be, the faster the search, as the filing details of the five filings will be automatically populated in the filing selection box ready for processing. If you know exactly which filings to include, the whole process will take no more than seven clicks (one to select each filing, one for XBRL to XL to do it’s thing and one to confirm your download.
There are only two types of button you need to worry about. The five filing buttons and the magic “XBRL to XL” button so six in all. So when you want to search for your 1st filing, you press the “Filing 1” button. When you want to search for your 2nd filing you press the “Filing 2” button and so on. This is the only thing you really need to remember as if you press the top button (“Filing 1”) when you were actually trying to select the 3rd filing, it will replace the details of the 1st filing rather than put them in the 3rd slot.
We use these same five buttons if our initial search has not been specific enough and we need to select a company and/or a particular filing. Click on the check box of the particular company/filing you wish to select and then press one of five filing buttons again, depending in which sheet you wish it to appear. You can keep replacing filings in the filing selection box using the filing buttons until you are happy with your choices.
Note these filings can be from five different companies or five historical filings from the same company or a mixture. There are no restrictions.
Now press the “XBRL to XL” button to get your filings to Excel. XBRL to XL goes and gets the required filings from the SEC and processes the data into Excel. The processing stage for each filing is highly optimised and takes approximately 2 seconds per filing. In general the actual filings are not held on our servers, although filings used in the session will be cached as will popular filings. It is this stage that will potentially take the most amount of time.
Once processing has been completed, you can choose to download the spreadsheet or a zipped version. The spreadsheet with five filings (each with 3 years of data) will be roughly 500k to 800k in size. The zipped version will be less than 1/5th the size of this.
In a sense, the spreadsheet in which you receive the data, is an integral part of the application, as it is this that enables you to unlock the power of XBRL. There are four parts to the workbook (in order going from the back to the front): the raw data (the XBRL); a tag dictionary (optional); standardised data (optional); (your) data model. Although all of these are present in each spreadsheet downloaded, XBRL to XL is really only supplying one of these – the raw data. You the analyst are responsible and can customise the other three. In fact you can do without the middle two altogether if you so wish.
The Raw Data:
In fact it is the exact opposite of raw data! It is the polished presentation of the data chosen by the company and is just as you would see it were you to pick up a printed version of the filing. This is the “Investor Relations” version. Perhaps the correct term should be “As Reported”. I use the term “raw” here to represent the fact that in Excel, it is our starting point. The raw data is contained in five separate sheets each numbered after the five filings you chose earlier.
The Tag Dictionary:
This is optional. You may already know the 16,000 US-GAAP tag names off by heart! We can use the tag dictionary to help build our standard data items or directly in the model itself if you choose to dispense with the standard layer. You can add to this dictionary. At the moment the one we supply is very small but will be expanded.
The Standardised Data:
This sheet is here to build & re-inforce comparability and transparency. In effect it acts as an essential buffer between the model (a ratio say) and the (continually shifting) raw data. Keep an eye on my blog to see why this layer is potentially so important. Here you build the standard data items that your model requires and is where you hook up to the XBRL data. We have put some example items together here to feed the model that appears on the front sheet. See my blog posts Looking up XBRL in Excel and XBRL Comparative Analysis in Excel for more details on the mechanics of this.
This is up to you! At the moment the downloaded spreadsheet contains a simple model by way of an example. We can look to supply more sophisticated “off the shelf” models if there is demand but at the moment it’s all about the data (and getting its delivery right!)”
XBRL to XL has only been tested with 10-K’s so far so downloading 10-Q’s is currently not possible.