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Category Direction - Compliance Management

Last Reviewed: 2020-02-14

Compliance Management: Introduction

Thanks for visiting this direction page on Compliance Management in GitLab. If you'd like to provide feedback on this page or contribute to this vision, please feel free to open a merge request for this page or comment in the corresponding epic for this category.

Compliance is a concept that has historically been complex and unfriendly. It evokes feelings of stress, tedium, and a desire to avoid the work entirely. Our goal is to change that paradigm and create an experience that's simple, friendly, and as frictionless as possible. Managing your compliance program should be easy and give you a sense of pride in your organization, not a stomach ache.

Problems to solve

Enterprises operating in regulated environments need to ensure the technology they use complies with their internal company policies and procedures, which are largely based on the requirements of a particular legal or regulatory framework (e.g. GDPR, SOC 2, ISO, PCI-DSS, SOX, COBIT, HIPAA, FISMA, NIST, FedRAMP) governing their industry. Customers need features that enable them to comply with these frameworks beginning with defining the rules, or controls, for their GitLab environment.

Currently, there's no way for an organization to manage the compliance status for groups and projects. There's no mechanism in place for an organization to know, within GitLab, what groups or projects are subject to particular compliance requirements.

When customers adhere to internal or external compliance frameworks, often times a need for customization arises. One organization's process for an activity can vary greatly from another's and this can create friction or usability issues. To facilitate better usability within GitLab towards compliance efforts, we'll be introducing features that enable customers to define specific policies or requirements their users and instance should abide by.

In almost all cases, compliance controls for an organization focus on reducing overall risk, enforcing separation of duties, and implementing remediation processes. Without features to support these efforts, administrators for these organizations are faced with few workarounds: they can tolerate higher risk, lock down an instance and manage additional administrative overhead at the price of velocity, or build and maintain layers of automation on their own. For enterprises to thrive, this is a problem that demands a high-quality, native solution in GitLab.


Compliance Management is currently in the minimal state. This is because we don't yet have a way to associate groups and projects with specific compliance frameworks, but there are existing settings and features that support compliance use cases.

In order to bring Compliance Management to the viable state, we will be implementing features that allow GitLab group owners and administrators to assign specific compliance controls to projects using pre-defined, sensible defaults based on existing compliance framework requirements. These controls should introduce simple, but meaningful controls to govern activity within a project, such as ensuring merge request approval rules are adhered to and cannot be bypassed without explicit approval.

Once we've achieved a viable version of Compliance Management, achieving a Complete level of maturity will involve collecting customer feedback and reacting. Assuming we're on the right track, we'll likely scale the solution in two dimensions:

Finally, once we've achieved a ruleset that's sufficiently flexible and powerful for enterprises, it's not enough to be able to define these rules - we should be able to measure and confirm that they're being adhered to. Achieving Lovable maturity likely means further expansion of the two dimensions above, plus visualizing/reporting on the state of Compliance Management across the instance.

What's Next & Why

Compliance Management will initially be focused on the SOC2, SOX, and HIPAA compliance frameworks because these three frameworks appear to be some of the most common among GitLab customers. Additionally, the features we build for these frameworks will inherently add value to other organizations who are managing compliance with other frameworks due to the fundamental nature of many requirements the various frameworks share. For example, adding access control features to support HIPAA could potentially satisfy requirements for PCI-DSS and NIST.

We'll be introducing better control at the project level with features like controls definition and compliance checks in merge requests. We'll also focus on group-level considerations such as preventing project maintainers from changing critical settings like merge request approvals.

We'd also like to leverage the GitLab Control Framework as a single source of truth. By using the GCF, a group owner or administrator could apply specific GCF controls to a project to support multiple legal and regulatory frameworks as opposed to requiring separate framework assignments.

Examples of the GCF controls:

We're currently exploring the GCF as a mapping precedent in this discovery vision issue and we encourage you to provide your feedback.

How you can help

This vision is a work in progress, and everyone can contribute: