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12/5/2005
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Updating Edgar, Search By Search

The Securities and Exchange Commission is overhauling is vaunted repository of corporate data. Among the new features will be a version of XML to make Edgar data more easily downloaded, more widely available, and easier to analyze.

Given some recent I.T. flops by government agencies, any federal CIO taking on a major IT project better be ready for life in the fishbowl. That's what awaits Securities and Exchange Commission CIO Corey Booth as the SEC moves ahead with its plans to overhaul Edgar, the SEC's repository of corporate data that's one of the most widely accessed government IT systems.

The contract for managing the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system, currently held by Northrop Grumman Corp., expires in June. The SEC issued a draft request-for-proposals late last month for a new three-year contract that calls for significantly upgrading Edgar's underlying technology.

Topping the commission's to-do list is expanding the use of the Extensible Business Reporting Language format, a version of XML. XBRL will make data in Edgar, such as corporate annual reports and earnings statements, easier to analyze because it can be downloaded directly into spreadsheets and other applications. "That will make the data more rich, more analytically useful, and more relevant to investor decision-making," Booth says. It also should help regulators in their efforts to spot the next Enron debacle, letting them sift through more data. Although the SEC has been experimenting with XBRL since February, most data in Edgar is still in text form.

Still, Booth says Edgar will be updated incrementally--no "big bang" project that could cause disruptions. Good thing: Edgar gets some 700,000 filings a year, and in fiscal 2005 the public used it for 375 million searches.

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