Discover 5 lessons Microsoft has learned about compliance

Compliance management is a complex process—one that gets increasingly more complicated the larger an organization grows. Microsoft knows this firsthand, not only because of our experience providing Security and Compliance solutions to customers but also because of the global reach and responsibility for maintaining compliance with a hefty number of regional and industry-specific regulations. Another thing Microsoft has learned along this journey is that the route is significantly smoother with an inclusive mindset and digital tools to ease the way.

In the new world of hybrid work, regulatory compliance has become a board-level directive. Local and global regulations dictate how to manage, store, and transmit data, making compliance more critical than ever before. However, to adhere to these regulatory standards, risks need to be identified and mitigated, and data needs to be governed according to policy. Embarking on this journey will provide additional valuable outcomes, like:

  • Providing you with fast access to requested data in the event of an external or internal investigation or legal action.
  • Protecting company data as the workplace evolves is especially important given the growing use of personal devices for work and the increase in employees accessing company networks from outside the physical office for some or most of their week.
  • Acting as good stewards—Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) feel a sense of duty to protect their employees, partners, and customers to the best of their ability.

Microsoft’s compliance journey has given us insights and best practices that we can share with other organizations determined to strengthen their compliance management practices. Planning for the unexpected events that inevitably occur means aligning your people, processes, and technology. Here are five things we’ve learned along our compliance path—and stories of what’s worked for customers.

Assess your compliance posture

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to know if you’re headed in the right direction without knowing your current position. So, where do you start? Compliance management has gone from a nice to have to a must-have for organizations, which have huge a incentive to strengthen their compliance management practices. Keeping track of all the regulations they’re responsible for, however, can be challenging, especially for those companies in regulated industries, like financial services or healthcare. Maintaining a good compliance posture can help you avoid penalties, negative publicity, fines, and financial losses. Given how quickly regulations change, this can be a big challenge. And manually tracking compliance issues in spreadsheets often isn’t sufficient. As a first step, we recommend assessing the current state of your compliance with a visual tool that helps measure where you are today, and allows you to track your collective progress over time.

Broaden your idea of compliance

When people hear the term “compliance,” many instantly think about regulatory compliance. Understandably so, because regulations like the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) receive a lot of press and attention. But as mentioned earlier, compliance goes way beyond regulations.

Compliance management can even lead to innovation. Customers tell us they feel free to adapt the way they operate in response to customer trends. Visionary Wealth Advisors, a financial management firm in the United States, wanted to allow customers to communicate with the company via text messaging but needed to manage that data securely for compliance reasons. Visionary Wealth Advisors was able to maximize security and compliance with Microsoft Purview Data Lifecycle Management and CellTrust SL2.

“A central pain point is that the client doesn’t understand the regulatory environment that we operate in,” said Ryan Barke, Chief Compliance Officer and General Counsel, Visionary Wealth Advsiors. “They just want to communicate with their financial advisor, and the financial advisor wants to communicate with the client. We can have a policy that says, advisors, you’re prohibited from text messaging with your clients but we cannot control the other end of that communication.”

Involve everyone

Data breaches are accelerating—climbing 68 percent in 2021, costing an average of USD4.24 million each.1 Insider leaks of sensitive data, intellectual property (IP) theft, and fraud can all detrimentally impact a company. So, too, can regulatory violations, but CISOs may be so focused on data protection that data compliance doesn’t get as much attention. What we have learned on our journey is that compliance isn’t a CISO’s burden to bear alone. Multiple Microsoft executives were involved in meeting compliance regulations and obligations. People across Microsoft had to have a hand in compliance to drive the process.

Involving multiple leaders makes sense given how people throughout an organization will benefit from what strong compliance management makes possible. The City of Marion in Australia deployed Microsoft Purview Records Management to better manage the data collected from the 90 services it provides. As a result, city staff has become more engaged with the process of creating and handling information. They can organize themselves and their workflows in Microsoft Teams, set up SharePoint sites, create and link information, create their own Power BI reports, configure workflows, and connect varied information much easier.

“It helps our small team get lots of stuff done, and we don’t need to worry so much about compliance anymore,” said Karlheins Sohl, Information Management Team Leader, City of Marion. “We can trust the system to help take care of that, while we’re freed to focus on the quality of information and the service we provide to the City of Marion staff.”

Discover data and identify risks

In the event of legal action, a merger or acquisition, or an internal or external investigation, technology solutions can help you more efficiently find the relevant data you need. With the proliferation of data, that’s more important than ever.

The sheer volume of data can make this challenging. Technology solutions like Microsoft Purview eDiscovery can help you save time and money on tracking down data.

Through a solution like Microsoft Purview Communication Compliance, organizations can reduce risks related to regulatory compliance obligations.  

Simplify and automate compliance

Effective technology solutions have a wonderful way of simplifying complex processes—and often the workdays of those responsible for managing those processes. Multiple solution providers can complicate already challenging compliance processes and result in a fragmented, inefficient approach. Choosing a comprehensive solution, like Microsoft Purview, can help by continuously monitoring for compliance changes and automating the update process.

Texas-based Frost Bank must follow numerous banking regulations and employees recognize the importance of complying with them—“Compliance is like drinking coffee in the morning,” says Edward Contreras, CISO, Frost Bank. Keeping up with all of those regulations proved challenging before adopting Microsoft Purview Compliance Manager, which updates daily, adding at least 200 updates from more than 1,000 regulatory bodies and enabling the bank to create detailed reports for regulators and auditors.

“Compliance Manager took the mystery out of regulatory compliance for us,” said Glenn McClellan, Endpoint Architect, Frost Bank. “The solution provides improvement actions, excerpts from relevant regulations, and overall, made managing compliance really easy and actionable.”

Explore Microsoft Purview

Effective compliance and risk management are extremely important, and are possible. Microsoft is here to help if you’re looking to simplify your compliance management with technology solutions.

Microsoft Purview is a comprehensive set of compliance and risk management solutions that help organizations govern, protect, and manage data, and improve your company’s risk and compliance posture. These solutions include Microsoft Purview eDiscovery, which helps you discover, preserve, collect, process, cull, and analyze your data in one place; Microsoft Purview Compliance Manager, which helps you simplify compliance and reduce risk; and Microsoft Purview Communication Compliance, which helps foster compliant communications across corporate mediums. We’d love to offer support on your journey.

To learn more about Microsoft Security solutions, visit our website. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.


1Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, Ponemon Institute, IBM. 2021.