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What is Microsoft Compliance Manager?
Gabrielle MorrisMay 15, 2022 9:51:00 AM7 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Microsoft Compliance Manager - What is Microsoft Compliance Manager?

Data privacy and information security is crucial to the success of any organization. At first glance, meeting compliance requirements may appear to be difficult or expensive for many organizations. Microsoft Compliance Manager may be the solution your organization needs to stay on top of your information security.

What is Microsoft Compliance Manager? 


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Microsoft Compliance Manager is a comprehensive compliance management solution located within the Microsoft 365 compliance center. The compliance manager is a cross-Microsoft solution that helps meet complex compliance obligations, including: 

- ISO 27001

-ISO 27018

- NIST 800-53


-Data Privacy

What does Microsoft Compliance Manager do?

 What does Microsoft Compliance Manager do?

Microsoft Compliance Manager helps you manage your organization's compliance needs including the inventory of data protection risks,  changes within your chosen regulation or certification, reporting to auditors, and more.  

Microsoft Compliance Manager measures your compliance through a centralized dashboard (shown above). Based on the compliance guidelines your organization is required or chooses to meet, this tool will collect information, identify issues, and confirm your progress. Microsoft Compliance Manager can also help simplify your compliance journey by offering: 

  • Pre-built assessments for common compliance standards 
  • Custom assessments to meet your organization's specific compliance needs 
  • Suggested improvements to reach compliancy 
  • The risk-based score for your organization to understand your current compliance posture. 

These specific offerings work together to build a complete and easy-to-use platform for your organization to become compliant and tighten data security. 

Core Elements of Microsoft Compliance Manager

Microsoft Compliance Manager is made up of four major elements that work together to detail your compliance journey 

This element details the requirements in the compliance standard your organization is trying to meet. It defines how you need to assess and manage configurations, processes, and people responsible for meeting the specified requirements. The Microsoft Compliance Manager helps track these controls and divides them up into two categories: Microsoft Managed Controls, or the ones that Microsoft is responsible for implementing, and shared controls, or control that your organization and Microsoft share responsibility for. The compliance manager assesses these controls by scanning your environment, and your activity status is updated daily. This means that once you implement a control to meet your compliance requirement, the status will update the following day. 


Assessments are a grouping of controls from your specified compliance standard or regulation. These include everything within the controls element plus in-scope services and assessment scores. The in-scope services are a set of Microsoft services that apply to the assessment, and the score shows the progress made on addressing controls and achieving compliance. If you complete all the controls with a specific assessment, it will bring your Microsoft setting in line with the compliance standard initially selected.  


Assessments are built using templates, which can be prebuilt by Microsoft or customized to your organization's specific needs. You can choose which compliance standard your organization needs to meet. Microsoft has over 35 prebuilt templates, some of which are included and others that are premium. Some of the included templates are the Microsoft Data Protection Baseline, EU GDPR, ISO/IEC 27001:2013, and NIST 800-53, while some of the premium templates are SOC 1 and 2, PCI DSS, Privacy of Consumer Financial and Health Information Regulation, HIPAA/HITECH, FERPA, and Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  

Improvement Actions 

Improvement actions are the final main element of the Microsoft Compliance Manager. This feature centralizes your compliance activities and details what specific actions your organization needs to take to align you with the specified compliance regulations. These can be assigned to a specific user to complete and each improvement action can store documents, notes, and status updates within it. When an update is available for an improvement action, such as when there are regulatory changes, you will be notified via an improvement action that can either be accepted or deferred. Improvement actions directly impact and improve your compliance score.  


Understanding your Compliance Score

Microsoft Compliance Manager- Understanding Compliance Score

Within the Microsoft Compliance center, you can view your organization's compliance score. Your score starts with an initial score based on the Microsoft 365 data protection baseline, then additional points are added based on the standards of your selected compliance standard, such as NIST CSF or ISO 27001. 

This score is expressed as a percentage as well as points achieved out of total attainable points. These points are further broken down by customer-managed points achieved, which is based on actions that your organization took, and Microsoft-managed points achieved, which is based on actions that Microsoft took for you. At a first glance, these numbers will give you an idea of where you stand in relation to the compliance standard you are trying to meet.  

Who needs Microsoft Compliance Manager? 

In short, Microsoft Compliance Manager is for everyone. Whether your organization is required by law to meet compliance standards or your organization chooses to maintain regulatory compliance, Microsoft Compliance Manager can help you on your journey.  

Some of the most common compliance standards and industries are: 

  • HIPAA for health care organizations  
  • PCI-DSS for organizations that handle or process credit card information 
  • Sarbanes-Oxley or Gramm-Leach-Bliley for organizations that handle financial information 
  • CCPA for organizations processing information on California residents


    Regardless of whether or not your organization is required to meet a compliance standard, it is good practice for all organizations in order to keep data secure and costs low. 

Enhancing Regulatory Adherence: The Essential Role of Managed Service Providers in Implementing Microsoft Compliance Manager

In today's digitally-driven business environment, regulatory compliance represents more than just a legal requisite; it's a component of corporate responsibility and a cornerstone of consumer trust. As organizations navigate the intricate web of compliance requirements, tools like Microsoft Compliance Manager have emerged as invaluable assets. However, the complexities of these solutions often necessitate the expertise of a managed service provider (MSP) to fully leverage their capabilities.

Understanding the Intricacies of Microsoft Compliance Manager

Microsoft Compliance Manager is a comprehensive solution designed to help organizations meet complex compliance obligations with integrated, ongoing risk assessments across Microsoft Cloud services. This tool simplifies the compliance journey by providing a detailed compliance score, actionable insights, and streamlined workflows to improve your compliance posture.

Yet, the implementation and management of such a sophisticated tool are far from straightforward. Herein lies the necessity for professional compliance management services, to not only initiate but also optimize the functionality of Microsoft Compliance Manager within your organizational framework.

The Indispensable Need for Managed Service Providers

Engaging with an MSP like Datalink Networks for the deployment and utilization of Microsoft Compliance Manager is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Expert Navigation of Compliance Complexity: With an in-depth understanding of regulatory landscapes, MSPs facilitate the accurate alignment of Microsoft Compliance Manager's capabilities with your specific legal and industry standards requirements.

  2. Customized Implementation Strategies: MSPs recognize that each organization's compliance journey is unique. They customize the tool's functionalities to suit your specific needs, ensuring you're not just compliant, but client-ready at all times.

  3. Streamlined Operational Efficiency: By offloading the intricate management of compliance processes to managed services, organizations can refocus resources on core business functions, driving innovation and growth.

Beyond Implementation: The Continuous Role of MSPs

The role of an MSP in your compliance strategy extends beyond the initial setup. Regulatory environments are dynamic, with evolving requirements that necessitate continuous adjustments to your compliance processes. MSPs ensure your tools are not just up-to-date, but ahead of the curve, reflecting the latest compliance mandates.

Furthermore, the insights derived from Microsoft Compliance Manager are only as constructive as the follow-up actions they prompt. MSPs, equipped with comprehensive compliance services, are instrumental in deciphering these insights and transforming them into actionable improvements in your compliance posture.

The Proactive Path to Compliance

Maintaining regulatory compliance in the modern corporate landscape is an active, ongoing process. Tools like Microsoft Compliance Manager are essential in providing a structured, transparent framework for managing diverse compliance requirements. However, their potency is significantly enhanced when guided by the adept hand of a managed service provider.

By partnering with seasoned professionals in compliance management, organizations safeguard not only their legal standing but also their reputation, operational efficacy, and, ultimately, their sustained success in today’s fast-paced market.

How to Get Started with Microsoft Compliance Manager


Microsoft Compliance Manager is available to organizations that have Office 365 or Microsoft 365 licensing. To get started, you will need to have your organization's Global administrator sign into compliance manager and set up user permissions.

Compliance Manager uses role-based access controls permissions model, which means that only users that are assigned a role can access the tool and their actions are restricted by the role assigned to them. These roles include reader, contributor, assessor, and administration, which all hold different functions from read-only, to managing assessments and tenant data.  

Once roles are assigned and the templates are chosen, the real work can begin. View the dashboard to access your compliance score and improvement activities. Begin assigning or reassigning tasks to users, and enable automatic testing of improvement actions. As improvement actions are completed, you can manage the user history within that actions, such as documents uploaded, notes entered, and more. 


Need help getting started with Microsoft Compliance Manager or the Microsoft Security stack? Contact us today for a free consultation