XBRL reporting provider websites screaming ‘tired’ have already lost

We’ve seen it all before.

Companies that have been around since before the dawn of the internet age trying their best to get up to speed, get hip, get locked in to the latest trends and techniques to help them deliver their message.

No one in charge reminds them that if their website is solely touting “experience” in the business, along with excessive use of freely available, uninteresting, uncompelling graphics and cluttered text, you’ve already lost whatever target audience or demographic you hoped to capture—and sadly, for a potential new client (or even an existing one contemplating staying or leaving), as soon as your home page loads.

In the case of financial reporting service companies, if your company’s website is playing up “experience,” the site is usually not intuitive, visually appealing and easy-to-navigate with useful links or containing helpful search engine tools; in effect, your web presence is unimportant to you.

I’d like to see RR Donnelley and Merrill Corporation make a run at WebFilings and other emerging niche XBRL reporting service companies—really, I would; if only for the simple fact that competition in the marketplace is healthy.

Unfortunately, the old school of financial reporting—Donnelley (http://rrdonnelley.com/) and Merrill (http://www.merrillcorp.com/), need a lot of work on their websites before they can shine in this regard like WebFilings (https://webfilings.com/).

Right off the bat Donnelley and Merrill’s default home pages do not come up with secure protocol provisioning (HTTPS) like WebFilings’ does.

What I mean by this is that if you type rrdonnelley.com and merrillcorp.com into your web browser, you will get the standard, less secure protocol, upon their respective home pages loading. Type in webfilings.com on the other hand and check the URL: it defaults to the secure protocol (https://webfilings.com).

Donnelley and Merrill may proclaim HTTPS access to their site is available.

I’m sorry, but in this case, WebFilings cries out by default comparison, “Come on in! Just like when you’re conducting your banking business online, we’re ready to accept your documents in a secure environment! We get that security is important to you!”

The site is just more modern-looking, too.

For those wishing to refute this as incidental, I beg to differ and say it matters.

If you don’t think so, then let’s return to the visual and intuitive aspects of all three sites.

Donnelley’s home page exclaims, “Look at us! We’re old! We’ve been around forever. Look at how many busy hyperlinks we have! Give us your business. We’re perhaps still important; maybe a tad boring, but we’ll get you there!”

Every time I go to Merrill’s website, I’m hoping upon hope that they will give it a freshening up. Again, like Donnelley, although they may still have some of the best and brightest IT minds out there, their web pages shout from the rooftops, “We don’t care about this that much, and yes, maybe we’re a little tired, too.” Merrill uses many of the same, stock graphics that have been around in one form or another on their web pages for most of the past decade. Could we please at least see an attempt to show you’re trying to keep up with the times?

When you finally go to WebFilings’ home page, it’s pretty clear they understand the concept that a visually compelling, secure and intuitive website delivers confidence and appeal to would be customers. Also, with links to their company blogs and Twitter, it demonstrates they understand the importance of social media in both our personal and professional communication lives.

Competition in the XBRL reporting services marketplace has never been fiercer.

Your website is your most important marketing tool.

The XBRL mandate is in its infancy. Companies wagering their futures by primarily hawking their “experience” in lieu of an online image that displays they “get what’s required today,” could be playing with fire.



2 replies »

  1. Another great observation, Bob. The virtually useless website design is another symptom of what is wrong in these organizations. These interfaces are “Sales-centric”. To be clear, that is NOT the same as being “customer-centric”. Donnelley, Merrill and a handful of the mom and pops out there are so deeply ingrained in a business and sales philosophy that was fruitful 40 years ago, they won’t let go.

    Their web presence is a sales and marketing pitch. Let’s talk about us – what we do, what we’ve done, how good we are. Oh yeah, let’s also talk about every other possible product or service we offer in which the majority of our clients have little or no interest.

    There is no consideration for how the customer might want to use the web site. The financial printers still react to their frontline sales force as the voice of the customer. That’s right, the people whose livelihoods are defined by how cumbersome, archaic and costly we can keep the work processes.

    I don’t know of any other industry that essentially ignores there customers more. There are no customer satisfaction measures in place. No client surveys. No focus groups. Product development is an entirely internal process. And this is quite evident in the conscious practice to not have meaningful workflow collaboration tools available online.

    Webfilings has no deep financial printing expertise. No long-term relationships with the law firms and investment banks. No printing plants or fulfillment centers. No opulent conference rooms. Like most successful software companies, Webfilings has customer focus.

    The sales culture that once made the financial printers one of the most profitable niche businesses going, is clearly becoming the key to their demise.


    • Thanks for continuing to articulate and expand on the structural mindset of financial printers and how it’s holding them back.

      In the relatively short time I’ve had hittingthesweetspot up and running, it’s been interesting for me to note that a lot of folks are finding my posts related to financial reporting service companies to be of great interest.

      I believe part of this interest is a yearning for folks still involved with the likes of Donnelley and Merrill, for information as to their operational philosophy–both for current and former employees, as well as customers past, present and future.

      I’ve always been bemused at the lack of transparency, disclosure and typically not-helpful-as-it-should-be information passed down to rank and file employees as well as clients; mystifying seems to be a good word for it, when I think of how the traditional financial printing world has, and still does, operate–and as you so insightfully continue to ruminate on, Dan.

      Financial printers’ internal caste system culture of worth, where you ironically enough have Composition at the bottom, followed by Customer Service in the middle and finally Sales at the top, is an overall detriment to harmony, too, and is no longer working for them.

      In order for organizations to be successful nowadays you need to foster the concept of team where everyone is considered an equal and the contributions of all employees across all departments are held in commensurate esteem and worth (and are what factors in to the overall success of a company).

      Hittingthesweetspot readers and I enjoy your comments–which are helping to demystify the world of traditional financial printing.

      As you are able to, keep them coming, Dan.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s