Whether in government or the private sector, financial management or regulatory reporting, the adoption of data standards leads to improved quality, transparency, accessibility and ease of dissemination. Once any kind of data is standardized, it can be checked automatically for quality. It’s readily available for analytics. It can be shared more easily. For all these reasons, government data can’t truly be open without data standards.
Put another way, if the federal government were to publish all its financial transactions and contract reports, but continued to use a wide variety of data formats for them – there would be no way to connect transactions to contracts, or aggregate a particular contractor’s payments, except the manual way. Only data standards, consistently deployed, can connect elements and concepts together.
This is why it’s so important for the federal government to adopt consistent data standards for its finances – and why we support initiatives like the DATA Act, which would accelerate the adoption of common digital formats such as XRBL across federal spending.
Implementation costs and difficulties are often perceived as roadblocks in enabling enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to adopt these improvements. In reality, the technology required to deploy open standards is inexpensive because it is highly re-usable across different processes, purposes, type of organizations, jurisdictions and industries. It is efficient, because it leverages existing processes and knowledge bases to meet common standards. It is minimally invasive, because it does not require the replacement or re-engineering of existing software applications.
Look for us at Data Transparency 2013 – we will be happy to demonstrate the actual steps necessary to convert data from any software application to XBRL, and the benefits that this will bring to your organization.