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XBRL and ebXML: Framing New Rules for Information Sharing
May 31, 2003

Information management and processing technology vendors usually are ready to tout new capabilities - whether it is the ability to mine text from emails or mine opinions from discussion and message boards or their ability to integrate structured, semi-structured and unstructured data. But this rush to define and explicate the newly acquired capabilities and the jargon that necessitates such capabilities, could make the vendors overlook much more important and yet unsolved pieces of the information access and retrieval puzzles. These puzzles represent the lacunae that are still evident in streamlining information access across various business processes. We have been tracking two initiatives -XBRL and eBXML for some time, which are trying to help solve the information access puzzles and now seem to be ready to fly....

K-Praxis had earlier looked at a cluster of technology vendors who sell Business Intelligence solutions, and how these solutions fare in terms of their ability to provide 360-degree-view of organizational information (Business Intelligence: An Information Management Perspective). The article concluded that business intelligence solutions mostly hover around numerical data and do not take into account other types of information, with a few exceptions.

Businesses still find it difficult to extract, coordinate and share actionable information across various business processes. For instance, how can a company correlate information that exists in emails, reports to the information available through collections management documents, contracts, credit application/credit decisioning, requisition/purchase orders, invoices and supplier performance, etc?

Two different non-profit organizations are trying to create XML based standards to interpolate information across various business processes and applications. The idea here is not just to interpolate internally but if required, these information-standards will be able to help businesses streamline information sharing with outsiders, e.g, vendors, dealers,etc.


eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) provides the ability to publish, exchange, and analyze complex financial information in corporate business reports and interpolate that information across internal as well external business processes.


One way to share information across various business processes is to create taxonomies to share a common understanding of the structure of information among people as well as various software components (e.g. ERP and CRM). ebXML is built exactly for this purpose. ebXML is an attempt to come up with a common structure for business processes to make sharing that structure within and outside the organization a seamless process.

ebXML (jointly sponsored by – “United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business” [UN-CEFACT] and “Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards” [OASIS]) lists thousands of business processes with unique names and descriptions.

From information processing and exploitation point of view both these standards herald new beginnings and can help create intelligent web-services based applications which be able to provide a "real" 360-degree view of an organization's information.

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