Digital business reporting standards: mapping the battle in France

Research paper by Véronique Guilloux, Joanne Locke, Alan Lowe

Indexed on: 24 Apr '12Published on: 24 Apr '12Published in: European Journal of Information Systems


Government agencies use information technology extensively to collect business data for regulatory purposes. Data communication standards form part of the infrastructure with which businesses must conform to survive. We examine the development of, and emerging competition between, two open business reporting data standards adopted by government bodies in France; Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport (EDIFACT) (incumbent) and eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) (challenger). The research explores whether an incumbent may be displaced in a setting in which the contest is unresolved. Latour's translation map is applied to trace the enrollments and detours in the battle. We find that regulators play an important role as allies in the development of the standards. The antecedent networks in which the standards are located embed strong beliefs that become barriers to collaboration and fuel the battle. One of the key differentiating attitudes is whether speed is more important than legitimacy. The failure of collaboration encourages competition. The newness of XBRL's technology just as regulators need to respond to an economic crisis and its adoption by French regulators not using EDIFACT create an opportunity for the challenger to make significant network gains over the longer term. ANT also highlights the importance of the preservation of key components of EDIFACT in ebXML.