Robert Kugel of Ventana Research provides a nice overview of XBRL in a story we're running from Intelligent Enterprise. Moreover, he predicts that analysis of competitors' XBRL-tagged information will become a required expertise at most companies.
"This information can be used for competitive assessments, operational benchmarking, sales planning and other activities," Kugel says. "We advise finance organizations to establish a competitive intelligence unit responsible for providing information -- about competitors, customers, markets, trends and so forth gleaned from XBRL data -- to business units in a useful form."
The SEC hasn't pushed companies very hard to adopt XBRL-based reporting. But XBRL-tagged information on publicly traded firms is on the horizon, from private suppliers such as Edgar On-Line. Once the data becomes widely available, expect a competitive analytics explosion. Such analysis is still mostly in the "idea stage," but it's precisely at this moment that the smartest companies begin to investigate potentially horizon-transforming changes such as XBRL.