eBay Inc.

eBay was searching for a way to increase the efficiency and the effectiveness of its SEC reporting process.
  • Shortened the 10-K filing process by 20 days
  • Enabled the filing of 10-Qs shortly after its press release
  • Saved approximately $50,000 in third-party costs annually
  • Increased efficiency while reducing risk of errors
  • Managed XBRL tagging in-house

Every day eBay Inc., the world’s leading e-commerce company, relies on advanced technologies to manage millions of transactions generated by people around the world who use the online marketplace to buy everything from children’s toys to sports cars. But until recently, Sean Cook and Tyler Olsen were still waiting for advanced technology to improve their work process at eBay. Cook, Director of Corporate Accounting and Reporting, and Olsen, SEC Reporting and Accounting Policy Senior Analyst, are in charge of preparing and filing the company’s SEC reports. Like most SEC reporting professionals, they were saddled with an outmoded, ineffectual report development process because a better alternative hadn’t come along. Yet.

When Workiva founders were conducting market research and investigating demand for a revolutionary approach to external reporting, they invited eBay’s reporting team to a meeting to talk about the challenges they experienced with the reporting process. The eBay team was more than willing to share. They talked about the pain points regarding SEC filing: struggling to cut and paste between spreadsheets and word processing documents, managing number consistency in report development and throughout the documents, trying to decipher volumes of handwritten notes, and having to adhere to a third-party financial printer’s production schedule.

The Workiva team listened carefully and incorporated eBay’s input as they went about creating a new platform that would resolve those challenges. The resulting product, Wdesk, was nothing less than a revolution in financial reporting.

After the product launch, Workiva returned to eBay to demo their new product for Cook and other members of eBay’s management team. “We were ready to try something that made our process a lot more efficient and took some risk of errors out of it,” says Cook. “Wdesk looked impressive.”

Olsen saw the solution’s potential right away. “When I first saw Wdesk, I was blown away,” he says. “I immediately noticed significant efficiencies in how we could improve our process using Wdesk.”

eBay quickly became one of the first companies to transition to Wdesk.

Wdesk will, quite frankly, change the face of external reporting.

— Tyler Olsen, SEC Reporting and Accounting Policy Senior Analyst, eBay Inc.

Quick Start Up

Switching from eBay’s manual SEC report development and filing process to the fully integrated, cloud-based Wdesk platform could have been daunting, but Cook says the implementation went smoothly. “It was simple to get up and running quickly and the training and support was fantastic.”

Olsen, who was charged with learning the platform and helping train other users at eBay, worked closely with his Workiva Customer Success Representatives during the process. “The service was exceptional,” he says. “Our representatives went way beyond what I expected and were always responsive and available when I had questions.”

He adds that the platform has a relatively short learning curve. “The overall ease of the application alleviated a lot of stress and anxiety; Wdesk is so easy to navigate,” says Olsen. “I think it would work for anyone whether they’d been doing external reporting for 15 years or 15 days.”

Integrated XBRL Tagging

While Olsen learned how to prepare and file the reports, Cook focused on XBRL tagging. Wdesk conveniently integrates XBRL tagging with the report development. The solution includes an application that searches the XBRL taxonomy and offers a list of the suggested tags for each usage. “I was impressed with the way Wdesk works from an XBRL tagging perspective. Everything you need is at your fingertips—you can search for a tag, run validation reports, see where your errors are and correct them,” explains Cook.

Exceeding the Goal

Cook and Olsen were getting comfortable using Wdesk when management asked them to accelerate their timeline and file eBay’s 10-Q just one day after the press release. “We had confidence that we could pull it together, but Wdesk made it much more achievable as far as not killing my staff,” says Cook. The eBay team actually exceeded their goal by filing the company’s earnings release and its third quarter 10-Q on the same day. “We had a late change, and I know that if we were working with a printer we wouldn’t have had the flexibility to file on that day,” says Olsen.

The eBay team also realized dramatic time savings when they prepared the company’s 2010 10-K. They filed on schedule and 20 days ahead of their previous record. “Wdesk makes us more efficient and helps us save a significant amount of time,” explains Cook. “The functionality of the linking, not having to worry about version control, and being able to have many people working in the document at the same time definitely helped us produce the document a lot earlier than we have in the past.”

By cutting 20 days out of the 10-K report preparation process, the eBay team did more than beat a deadline—they actually gained almost three weeks to strategize and look ahead. “By shaving 20 days off our process we no longer had to spend that time looking into the past,” explains Olsen. “Instead, I earned 20 days that I can use to focus on the future and making our business better,” comments Olsen.

Wdesk gives you the ability to really use your time more effectively and efficiently.

— Sean Cook, Director of Corporate Accounting and Reporting, eBay Inc.

Streamlined Review Process

Cook and Olsen are now adept at using the many time-saving, risk reducing features offered by Wdesk. The platform’s linking function lets them update a source value and that number will automatically be changed throughout the document. “The linking function is one of the biggest time savings because it’s so dynamic, and it’s consistent through the document,” says Cook. “You feel very confident that when you make a change in the document, wherever else that number shows up, you know the change has been made,” says Cook.

eBay’s senior management, legal department, investor relations, and audit committee are all involved in reviewing the SEC reports, so Cook and Olsen used to receive stacks of changes associated with each report. “Previously, I had to decipher handwritten comments, make the edits, take the report back to the person, and ask if it was ready to go… There was a lot of churn with the review process,” says Olsen. Now, with the Wdesk comment feature and blackline reports, the review and revision process is streamlined and the team has a continuous digital record of every change.

I recommend Wdesk because it's just out of date to do SEC reporting using a traditional word processor and spreadsheet software.

— Sean Cook, Director of Corporate Accounting and Reporting, eBay Inc.

The comment feature enables reviewers to access the report from anywhere and make or reply to comments within the document at any time. The blackline report displays the differences between any two selected revisions of the document, and can be created at any time to compare changes made in the report. The eBay team creates blackline reports for “milestones” during report development and uses them to streamline the review process. “Being able to create a blackline instantaneously to compare versions is extremely helpful. With our time-frame, an application that enables reviewers to focus on the items that have changed from version to version is invaluable, especially as we draw closer to the actual filing,” explains Cook.

In addition to a streamlined process and time savings, eBay has also realized a bottom-line difference using Wdesk. Because the solution integrates document development, XBRL tagging, EDGARizing, and automatic filing with the SEC, eBay saves approximately $50,000 annually on third-party costs.

From being one of the first to hear about Wdesk, to becoming one of its early adopters, eBay has been a part of the Workiva external reporting revolution from the start. Now the eBay team is spreading the word, says Cook. “I always recommend Wdesk. With all the functionality it offers and the savings you get right away, why wouldn't you use it?

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