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A solution looking for a problem: factors associated with the non‐adoption of XBRL

Carolyn J. Cordery (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Carolyn J. Fowler (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Khairil Mustafa (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Pacific Accounting Review

ISSN: 0114-0582

Article publication date: 3 May 2011




The purpose of this paper is to explore the factors influencing the non‐adoption of Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) technology.


This exploratory study analyses interview data obtained from key XBRL stakeholders on the relative importance of environmental, organisational and technological context factors to ascertain why adoption has not occurred.


The research finds three reasons for XBRL non‐adoption. First, the lack of a government “push” for XBRL technology results in organisational ignorance. Second, it appears that organisations do not believe that XBRL will beneficially reduce compliance costs. Third, complexity in developing the structured language (taxonomy) for XBRL use has significant budgetary implications.

Research limitations/implications

As qualitative research, this study does not claim to be generalisable or objective. However, the rich data were analysed from a diverse group of interviewees experienced and knowledgeable in respect of XBRL development and adoption.

Social implications

Governments' promises to reduce organisational compliance costs may be a reason for them to invest extensive taxpayers' dollars into XBRL. However, organisations are sceptical they will benefit, requiring government to “push” the technology. Until government servants can forecast the real benefits to argue for increased budgets to develop a comprehensive taxonomy, widespread adoption of XBRL is unlikely to occur.


The non‐adoption of XBRL highlights the difficulties encountered when enthusiastic professionals can see the potential of a business solution, and yet are impotent to execute it. Environmental and technological contextual factors need to “push” organisations, as with XBRL, organisations do not demand, or “pull”, the technology.



Cordery, C.J., Fowler, C.J. and Mustafa, K. (2011), "A solution looking for a problem: factors associated with the non‐adoption of XBRL", Pacific Accounting Review, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 69-88.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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