How Microsoft 365 Notifications Show Active User Data for Workloads Affected by Service Updates

Usage Data Comes from Microsoft Graph

Message center notification MC315739 (January 18, roadmap item 83946) brings news of a big change for the information included in notifications. Soon, along with the text describing new features or changes to existing Microsoft 365 features, notifications will include service usage data relevant to the change. Deployment starts for targeted release tenants in mid-January and should be complete worldwide for all tenants by mid-February.

Let’s take the change announced in MC302456 as an example. This notification describes how users can maintain their guest accounts in other tenants from Teams. To help administrators understand how many people will be affected by the change, the service communications API queries the Microsoft Graph reports API to retrieve the monthly active user data for Teams and reports this information in the notification.

Figure 1 shows a mock-up included in MC315739 to illustrate the point. On the left, you see a notification for a change affecting multiple workloads together with the usage data for each workload (Outlook is really Exchange Online, but obviously non-Outlook clients can connect to Exchange Online mailboxes). On the right, you see a notification for Kaizala, which doesn’t store its usage data in the Microsoft Graph, so it’s impossible to display this information.

Usage data shows up in message center notifications (source: Microsoft)
Figure 1: Usage data shows up in message center notifications (source: Microsoft)

Editorial comment: The need for Kaizala is possibly now much reduced by the general availability of the Teams Walkie-Talkie feature.

The Problem with Microsoft Graph Usage Data

The Microsoft Graph reports API allows access to usage data about some Microsoft 365 services. Coverage is good for base workloads (SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Teams, and OneDrive for Business) and not so good elsewhere (Planner, Stream, Forms, Whiteboard, etc.). Nevertheless, the usage data is detailed enough to build a picture of user activity over the last ninety days. If you’d like to know how to use the API with PowerShell, consider running the User Activity Analysis script to see how to make calls against the reports API and the kind of data the API returns. For example, this code creates a query to retrieve Teams activity data for users over the last 30 days. Data returned by the reports API is always a few days behind the actual date.

$TeamsUserReportsURI = "https://graph.microsoft.com/v1.0/reports/getTeamsUserActivityUserDetail(period='D30')"

[array]$TeamsUserData = (Invoke-RestMethod -Uri $TeamsUserReportsURI -Headers $Headers -Method Get -ContentType "application/json") -Replace "...Report Refresh Date", "Report Refresh Date" | ConvertFrom-Csv

The data returned by the API is in an array. Here’s the item in the area for an account:

Report Refresh Date        : 2022-01-16
User Principal Name        : Jane.Smith@office365itpros.org
Last Activity Date         : 2022-01-15
Is Deleted                 : False
Deleted Date               :
Assigned Products          : POWER BI (FREE)+ENTERPRISE MOBILITY + SECURITY E5+BUSINESS APPS (FREE)+MICROSOFT POWER AUTOMATE FREE+MICROSOFT VIVA TOPICS+MICROSOFT DEFENDER FOR CLOUD APPS – APP GOVERNANCE+OFFICE 365 E5 WITHOUT AUDIO CONFERENCING
Team Chat Message Count    : 58
Private Chat Message Count : 14
Call Count                 : 1
Meeting Count              : 5
Has Other Action           : No
Report Period              : 30

The data looks good and is useful. However, some workloads (like Teams) return data for both tenant and guest accounts, so the numbers reported in message center notifications will reflect that data. You might be concerned about how a change will affect guest users, but I hazard a guess that most tenant administrators will focus on the effect on tenant users.

Another issue (acknowledged in MC315739) is the non-specific nature of the report. Usage across all clients and all features is included into one workload figure. For instance, a change affecting Microsoft Lists in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business might affect just the five people who create and manage Lists, but the notification will say that the change affects everyone who has used SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business in the last month. You won’t know either if a change is specific to a client platform, like Android or iOS.

Counting all and sundry who use a workload isn’t such a big problem for new features. It is more important for updated features and becomes even more critical when Microsoft deprecates some functionality. You then want to know precisely who is affected, or at least, how many are affected.

Another aspect of an all-up number is that it doesn’t take account of multi-geo deployments. You’ll know that some people in the organization might need to be informed about a change, but not their location.

Still a Good Change

Even with the caveats listed above, this is still a good change. If you see a notification where a low number of users will experience an impact, you can probably spend less time preparing for that change and more on changes affecting large user populations. The availability of data through Graph APIs limit what the developers can do to slice and dice usage data to make it more precise and informative. This will probably happen over time. In the interim, take the information presented in message center notifications as a starting point to help you understand the likely impact of individual changes on users. Use this data in conjunction with your knowledge of the tenant and how people work within the organization, and the monthly active user data for affected workloads will be helpful. Taken as an exact guide, it won’t be.

I guess I might have to update my script to extract and report information from message center notifications to accommodate this change…


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2 Replies to “How Microsoft 365 Notifications Show Active User Data for Workloads Affected by Service Updates”

  1. My doubt of this thing is the same. It will almost in all cases show just the number of all users of that service. If there is a change in Exchange Online i can already assume it affects all mail users, change in Teams – all Teams users. If they cannot always pin point particular users, who use particular feature, then it would be enough to just list services affected without a need to pull the numbers of users. But i guess they can flex their Graph powers here 🙂

  2. For the sentence that reads “On the left, you see a notification for Kaizala” – I believe it should say “On the right” – thanks!

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