The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Microsoft Visual FoxPro-based filing system will no longer be available after September 2021. Instead, firms will be required to select commercial, off the shelf XBRL-based filing software to manage their compliance.
The Visual FoxPro system has, in any case, clearly outlived its use. Microsoft stopped supporting Visual FoxPro as far back as 2010. And the system that continues to be used even to date by energy firms — which is based on Visual FoxPro — is both unwieldy and non-user friendly.
It has been a common practice for all energy companies to maintain their financial operational data in MS Excel spreadsheets. Migrating the data on these spreadsheets to the VFP-based system has been a painful process. The system does not allow a copy-paste, which means data must be keyed in. At times, the data that is entered disappears. Other times, the system kicks users out just when they try to save their work.
While a shift out of this system may feel worrisome, it is highly likely that any XBRL-based filing software is bound to offer users much greater ease with their filing process.
Multiple FERC XBRL software in the market also means that not only do companies get to choose their software — each offering its own mix of features and functionalities — the software will also be constantly updated based on user feedback and with an aim to improve the user experience. This is something the Visual FoxPro-based system could not offer since Microsoft stopped supporting it. All in all, you can be assured that whichever FERC XBRL software you choose, your filing experience will be a lot better than it has been so far.
While the move from a VFP-based filing system to an XBRL-based system is bound to change things for the better for energy companies, it is vital that companies choose the right FERC XBRL software.
Two basic things to check for in FERC XBRL compliance software:
1. Software that simplifies the transfer of your data
You have so far had to painstakingly key in your numbers on the Visual FoxPro-based filing system, and there was no guarantee the numbers stayed in place until you were done with the process. Working on an FERC XBRL software should make this process much easier. Look for a software that absorbs all your data as soon as you upload an Excel sheet.
2. Software that handles XBRL tagging at the backend
Is the thought of getting to know the XBRL standard well enough for you to effectively comply with the FERC mandate weighing on your mind? It would help you to know that there are high-quality FERC XBRL software that automatically handle XBRL tagging at the backend. All you deal with is the forms that pertain to your company. While you will still be able to view and access the XBRL tags being placed against your disclosures, you will not need to place the tags manually.
By Nathaniel Valthaty, IRIS Business Services