Ebook: Challenging the Chain
What is digital business reporting? Why do we need it? And how can we improve it? This book aims to address these questions by illustrating the rise of system-to-system information exchange and the opportunities for improving transparency and accountability. Governments around the world are looking for ways to strengthen transparency and accountability without introducing more red tape, which is a source of growing frustration and costs for businesses.
In 2004, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands started to investigate the potential of XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) as a uniform data standard for business-to-government information exchange. In 2006, there was a comprehensive architecture for Standard Business Reporting (SBR), including the requirements for the information infrastructure. One year later the first reports in XBRL were successfully delivered to the Tax and Customs Administration and the Chamber of Commerce via a secure infrastructure. Today, millions of business reports are being exchanged using SBR. As a solution, SBR empowers organisations to present a cohesive explanation of their business operations and helps them engage with internal and external stakeholders, including regulators, shareholders and creditors.
Challenging the chain describes the journey of SBR from challenge to solution. Specialists in the field – flanked by academics – provide detailed insights on the challenges actors faced and the solutions they achieved. In its versatility, this book exemplifies the necessary paradigm shifts when it comes to such large-scale public-private transformations. Policy makers, managers, IT specialists and architects looking to engage in such transformations will find guidance in this book.
Logius provides standardised ICT solutions for electronic information processing and exchange. The need for such solutions is steadily increasing and it is a trend that cannot be stopped. Standardisation is therefore crucial. If everyone were to go their separate ways in computerisation, this would create heterogeneity and we would – to a huge extent – fail to utilise the opportunities provided by ICT to do more with less. That would seem not only stupid, but perhaps even dangerous. After all, money has become scarce. In addition, we have to realise that the labour market is shrinking rapidly because of demographic developments and we could end up with too few staff for operating information chains, although this may sound very strange to some people in the light of current unemployment rates.
It is evident to Logius that standardisation does not lead to limitations: on the contrary, it leads to increased freedom to achieve organisational objectives. Cleverly chosen standard building blocks and standard services enables flexibility, because they can easily be configured in numerous variations, depending on how new requirements and applications evolve. If used at a large scale – “mass is cash” – this may create permanent, substantial reductions in transaction costs for society as a whole. In addition, this is essential, because all the money that ends up siphoned off somewhere between the production and use of goods and services is wasted money.
In 2009, I gladly accepted the implementation of the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) programme under my supervision. This programme was committed to the realisation of far-reaching uniformity in the exchange and processing of business reports between businesses and administrative authorities. This uniformity requires stringent control of the standardisation of data, processes and technology. Logius accepted the role of chain orchestrator in this complex, public-private partnership.
The SBR concept might seem straightforward on the drawing board, but in 2009 there were only a few persons in the Netherlands who were capable of putting it into practice. A greater critical mass was required if this standardisation game was to be played at the appropriate level on a national scale. I therefore developed an ambitious knowledge agenda as part of the SBR programme. One of its offshoots is an executive master curriculum accommodated by Delft University of Technology. The first graduates of this curriculum are now working for employers such as Logius. This book leans on the concepts and theories that are taught in the curriculum that educates professionals in analysing and (re)designing information chains. It is a very useful guidebook for Logius and all other parties who are working with Standard Business Reporting, or who would like to work with it. The book is also a source of inspiration to everyone who wants to gain more knowledge on the large and complex transformations that are taking place within our society under the banner of ‘information chain computerisation’. This is because the book is not only about business reporting. I am firmly convinced that this book is also very suitable and relevant for the development of other information-intensive chains and collaborative networks.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude. First, I would like to thank the authors and reviewers for their efforts in writing this book and making the accumulated knowledge accessible for a broad audience. I support the invitation that they have issued – and that this book embodies – to everyone who is active in information chains to participate in the creation of later editions of this book. And of course, I would also like to thank the Tax and Customs Administration of the Netherlands for their decisive role as the ‘launching customer’ for Standard Business Reporting in the Netherlands. This country is one of the world's pioneers in these developments – which not only enhances our competitive position, but is also something to be proud of.
Director of Logius