Office 365 Partner Community: Spreadsheet compliance and rights management services

This post is part of a series of blog posts for partners with Office 365 practices. Select Office 365 to see the series. Subscribe to this blog by email or RSS.

Gabor Fariby Gabor Fari

US Partner Technology Strategist for Office 365


We’re continuing the theme of compliance in Office 365, following on to the post by my colleague Michael Panciroli about Advanced eDiscovery. This will be the topic for the Office 365 Partner Community call on April 7. Register for the call

To help organizations comply with national, regional, and industry-specific requirements governing the collection and use of individuals’ data, Microsoft offers the most comprehensive set of certifications and attestations of any cloud service provider. Along with security, privacy, and transparency, compliance is a critical component of the Microsoft Trusted Cloud, and partners should be prepared to work with their customers to assess whether Microsoft cloud services comply with applicable laws and regulations. 

To help you have this discussion with your customers, the new Microsoft Trust Center brings together all of the Microsoft resources related to security, privacy, compliance, and transparency across all our solutions, including Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Dynamics ERP, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Intune, and Microsoft Office 365.

Visit the new Microsoft Trusted Cloud website

Visit the new Microsoft Trust Center

In this post, I’ll highlight compliance-related capabilities that are available today in Office 365 and that you may not be aware of, but should potentially be talking to your customers about.

Spreadsheet controls overview

Spreadsheet compliance is a requirement in most regulated industries. Spreadsheet compliance lets customers manage audit trails in spreadsheets, providing details about which person changed what content, when it was changed, and the reason way. In regulated industries like financial services and life sciences firms in particular, not managing these audit trails at the individual cell level is a significant compliance risk—a risk that could result in millions of dollars in both fines and lawsuits.

Microsoft first introduced spreadsheet controls in Office 2013, making Audit and Control Management Server (ACM) available. ACM is a standalone server that helps with the audit tracking requirements for Excel spreadsheets at an individual cell level, and it also works with Access databases. SQL Server has these audit capabilities built in. Since it’s a standalone installation, ACM is not available in Office 365. However, the spreadsheet risk assessment concepts are integrated into the enterprise search capability in Office 365. In addition to giving customers new insights about their spreadsheets, this capability combines with SharePoint Search and other Office 365 features—like eDiscovery, archiving, and data loss prevention—to give organizations much greater control of their information.

Read about the spreadsheet controls in Office

Read about Office 365 Search and how it’s smarter about spreadsheets

Spreadsheet Inquire in Office 2016

With the release of Office 2016, spreadsheet controls are further enhanced with the introduction of Spreadsheet Inquire add-in. If Office Professional Plus 2013 or Office Professional Plus 2016 is installed on your computer, the Spreadsheet Inquire add-in is available in Excel.

Learn more about Spreadsheet Inquire

Here are some of the commands available to you with Spreadsheet Inquire.

Compare Files

imageWith the Compare Files command, you can see the differences, cell by cell, between two workbooks. To run this command, you need to have two Excel workbooks open.

Results are color coded by content type, such as entered values, formulas, named ranges, and formats. There’s even a window that can show VBA code changes line by line. Differences between cells are shown in an easy-to-read grid layout.






Workbook Analysis

imageThe Workbook Analysis command creates an interactive report showing detailed information about the workbook and its structure, formulas, cells, ranges, and warnings. The picture at left shows a simple workbook containing two formulas and data connections to an Access database and a text file.










Workbook Relationship Diagram

imageCreate an interactive, graphical map of workbook dependencies created by connections (links) between files. The types of links in the diagram can include other workbooks, Access databases, text files, HTML pages, SQL Server databases, and other data sources. In the relationship diagram, you can select elements and find more information about them, and drag connection lines to change the shape of the diagram.

The diagram at left shows the current workbook on the left and the connections between it and other workbooks and data sources. It also shows additional levels of workbook connections, giving you a picture of the data origins for the workbook.




Cell Relationship


To get a detailed, interactive diagram of all links from a selected cell to cells in other worksheets or even other workbooks, use the Cell Relationship tool. These relationships with other cells can exist in formulas, or references to named ranges. The diagram can cross worksheets and workbooks.

This diagram shows two levels of cell relationships for cell A10 on Sheet5 in Book1.xlsx. This cell is dependent on cell C6 on Sheet 1 in another workbook, Book2.xlsx. This cell is a precedent for several cells on other worksheets in the same file.






Azure Rights Management Services and Office 365

One of the most exciting, powerful, and comprehensive compliance-related innovations that Microsoft has released in the last few years is Azure Rights Management (Azure RMS). I view Azure RMS as a game changer when it comes to compliance. One of the limitations of enterprise content management (ECM) systems is the ability to enforce compliance throughout the lifecycle of the information. As long as the content remains under the control of the closed system, compliance can be enforced. But we are no longer dealing with closed systems in most use cases. Collaboration and file sharing systems are pervasive these days, and form an integral part of the content workflow, both for intra- and inter-enterprise collaboration. The old ways of securing content and enforcing compliance using traditional ECM systems are no longer sufficient.

Azure RMS can play a huge role by extending compliance beyond the boundaries of the enterprise. Using Azure RMS, each content artifact is encrypted on an individual basis and thus protected at all times, independently of the storage mechanism. Rights-managed content can only be accessed by users with the right permissions, which can be extended to support rules and roles. The compliance burden in highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals can be heavy, and the penalties for non-compliance can be severe—in some cases, in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Today, companies employ a variety of methods to enforce content compliance, even using staff members to physically check that a public presentation an individual makes on behalf of the corporation includes the latest, corporate-approved content. Azure RMS can help. Learn how RMS-protected documents can be tracked, and revoked if necessary, in the video directly below. For anyone who has spent time in the ECM business, this is simply magical. In addition to document tracking and revocation, Azure RMS can also enable tracking the audit trails of documents that are outside the confines of closed content management systems. More about the roadmap for Azure RMS and Microsoft information protection is in the second video below. 

Azure RMS overview

Azure RMS on TechNet


Azure RMS Document tracking and revocation

Watch online


Microsoft information protection in 2016

Watch online


The customer conversation

When talking to your customers about regulatory compliance in Office 365, emphasize that the Microsoft Cloud helps companies moving to the cloud meet the same compliance requirements that they have relied on from their existing on-premises solutions. The Microsoft Cloud helps companies significantly reduce their operating expenses, while continuing to meet their regulatory compliance burden.



Comments about this blog post, or questions about the topic? Let us know in the Office 365 Partners Yammer group.


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