The Development of a New Digital Business Reporting Standard - Inline XBRL

Mishchenko, Lidia (2020). The Development of a New Digital Business Reporting Standard - Inline XBRL. PhD thesis The Open University.



Digital reporting has become one of the key elements for regulatory reporting by businesses to the government in the UK. By tagging financial information with individual codes that are based on accounting standards and regulatory reporting regime, financial reports are now transformed into eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) instance documents and can be processed by XBRL-enabled software tools. This research explores how two of the governmental bodies in the UK - HM Revenue and Customs and Companies House - got involved in a close cooperation with the XBRL community in the UK and together with IT consultants and technical experts developed a human-readable format of XBRL, known as Inline XBRL (iXBRL).
The central concern is the fabrication of the new standard through formation of a network of actors and objects involved in the process. The study adopts an Actor Network Theory perspective that highlights the complexity of technology implementation in regulatory environments using concepts from sociomateriality theory (Latour, 2005; Leonardi & Barley, 2008). It draws on documentary evidence and semi-structured interviews with regulators, software vendors, and other organisations involved in developing digital reporting facility in the UK.
The study has found that iXBRL affordances acted as a catalyst for the network to grow and the regulators to fulfil their obligations by addressing the pressures from major consulting companies, accounting professional bodies, and software vendors. The XBRL rendering functionality produced the perception of both capability for users of financial reports and constraint for filers. To overcome this constraint, the network of actors directed all resources to producing a visually more accessible rendering mechanism that was inscribed in iXBRL. By focusing on the UK unique context of the mandate of iXBRL-based filing, the thesis contributes by illustrating what was compromised and what was gained for heterogeneous groups of actors when establishing the infrastructure for digital business reporting.

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