INSIGHTS: WHAT’S THE FUTURE LIKE FOR DIGITAL REPORTING?
This year's Corporate & Financial Awards takes place on 24 September. Zebra Corporate Communications is shortlisted for the awards
The findings of our studies conducted in 2019 suggest that less than half of FTSE 100 companies publish HTML reports and just a handful of them use the XBRL format for their annual consolidated statements. The key constraint on the wider adoption of full HTML reports is the inability of most publishers to publish PDF and full HTML reports concurrently, ensuring full content synchronisation, high usability, and effective report distribution. Furthermore, the risk of errors, an additional stress on a project team, and the costs of developing a full HTML report version significantly dampen the enthusiasm of many public companies.
At the same time, reports for 2020 are required to be ESEF-compliant, which implies that most companies will start implementing this reporting practice from next year. This is indirectly evidenced by the fact iXBRL reporting capability is included in 40% of the annual report RFPs we have received, since June 2019. The question is, will iXBRL reporting impact the publishing practice for full HTML reports and if yes, in what ways? It might well be that full HTML reports will endure the same fate as flip books or reporting apps, with less 5% of companies adopting the practice of using them, or we might see wider adoption driven by digital reporting.
In any event, we at Zebra believe full HTML reports are not just another distribution channel for annual reporting but a driver of unique insights for IR teams into the needs and interests of key stakeholders. Looking at the user experience of visitors to full HTML report websites, we enter the new reporting cycle with a clear understanding of the agenda and relevant themes which we test and adjust through public discussions, conferences or one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders.
Based on over 40 interviews with in-house IR teams and IR agencies, we have identified key success factors for full HTML reports: low extra costs, no additional stress for a project team, high publication speeds close to synchronous with PDF versions and added value creation, for a company and its stakeholders. Combining everything at once is a challenging but feasible task.
We have also seen demand for affordable and simple ESEF-compliance-only solutions from a number of UK and European small caps; conversion of the MS Word format or a third-party-developed layouts into the iXBRL. It is this challenge that drives our any-input-any-output concept. Our customers are given the opportunity to be able to provide their report in any widespread format, as input and get output in any format available – PDF, full HTML or iXBRL.
Now that the Zebra platform enables synchronous publication of reports in any format, we do not select the publication format but offer a full range of format options to shareholders, investors, regulators, the media, and other stakeholders. We have particularly focused on seamless integration of all processes for a customer and maximised automation of all processes, including full implementation of the single source approach, cloud-based collaborative document editing, and high-powered AI-driven iXBRL tagging.
Our off-season tests have confirmed the high productivity of our new platform and we will be able to deliver our first commercial projects through the platform by autumn 2019. We are firm believers in a bright future for digital reporting, in all its aspects and invite you to join us on this exciting digital reporting journey.
Andrey Kozhevnikov is the managing partner of Zebra Corporate Communications