Outlook Org Explorer Gives More Reasons to Pay Attention to Azure AD User Data

Org Explorer Brings Data from Multiple Microsoft 365 Sources

Updated 28 February 2023

About 18 months ago, I wrote about the importance of maintaining user account attributes in Azure AD. At the time, my focus was on Teams, because the application exposes where someone fits in the organizational structure when viewing their details. If you use Exchange Online dynamic distribution lists, the queries used to resolve list membership also depend on accurate directory data.

Organizational information is also available in the Office 365 profile card (which now shows local time information for users to make meetings easier to arrange). And now, organizational views are coming to Outlook desktop clients.

Introducing Outlook’s Org Explorer

Announced in message center post MC315746 (last updated January 21, 2022) and in preview since February (see Microsoft 365 roadmap item 84785), a new Org Explorer tab is available in Outlook’s navigation bar in Insider builds. Microsoft originally disclosed the feature in July 2021. At that time, Microsoft said that the Org Explorer is available to users with an Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 or Microsoft 365 Business license.

Update: According to message center notification MC492902 (updated 7 February 2023), the Outlook Org Explorer is only available to users with the “Microsoft Viva Suite” or “Microsoft Viva Suite with Glint” licenses. It’s odd that Microsoft would change the license requirements in mid-course, but they can do so at any time before a feature becomes generally available, which is the case here.

Oddly enough, given that OWA usually picks up new features first, the Outlook Org Explorer isn’t yet available in OWA, or the preview build of the One Outlook (“Monarch”) client.

Choosing Org Explorer opens what feels like a web page. The content shown on the page combines organizational information, personal information (like their address), presence information, and people insights derived from the Microsoft Graph from user activity (Figure 1). The user picker at the top right-hand conner can only search for user accounts within the tenant. In this instance, the person is an individual contributor without any direct reports. However, their manager appears at the top of the screen.

Using the Outlook Org Explorer
Figure 1: Using the Outlook Org Explorer

The Outlook Org Explorer tells you how many people report to the person in focus. You can expand the raw count to see the full set. Navigation down through the organization works well but navigating back up a level or two doesn’t work as well, even when attempting to move from a user with a direct manager.

Exchange Online must cache the information displayed by the Org Explorer. Changes made to reporting relationships didn’t appear for several hours after the update. Caching data is reasonable because the Org Explorer shows a lot of information extracted from different sources. I’m sure a background process collects the data periodically to make it available to Outlook.

Roaming Signatures Coming Closer

Also for Outlook,. Microsoft has been working on roaming signatures for Outlook desktop clients for several years, Message Center post MC305463 (15 December 2021) announced a delay for Roaming Signatures, and Microsoft later said that the new target date is July 2022. The good news is that the latest Insider builds and the One Outlook preview both include a way to insert Outlook Web Signatures into a message (Figure 2).

Inserting an OWA signature into Outlook desktop
Figure 2: Inserting an OWA signature into Outlook desktop

Outlook web signatures are no more than the signature defined for OWA (which can also be set for a mailbox using PowerShell). The good news is that the method works, which means that you can insert OWA signatures into Outlook very easily.

The latest version of OWA (and the One Outlook preview) allow users to define multiple web signatures. In the past, OWA had just one signature, but that seems to be in the past. In addition to being able to define multiple signatures (and insert any of the signatures into a message), users can choose default signatures for new messages and replies.

OWA setup for signatures
Figure 3: OWA setup for signatures

This flurry of change in OWA and Outlook points to OWA mailbox-based signatures being the way forward. No doubt Microsoft will reveal all in July. It will be nice to only have to define signatures in one place and have all Outlook clients use those signatures.

Insight like this doesn’t come easily. You’ve got to know the technology and understand how to look behind the scenes. Benefit from the knowledge and experience of the Office 365 for IT Pros team by subscribing to the best eBook covering Office 365 and the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

2 Replies to “Outlook Org Explorer Gives More Reasons to Pay Attention to Azure AD User Data”

  1. Do you know if there is anyway to select what is shown in Org view? We have for instance non personal account with manager set to the person responsible of the account, but they only want to see personal accounts beneath them in the organization view in Outlook and Teams.


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