Adding New Azure AD Users to Groups Automatically

Dynamic Group Membership is the Obvious But Not the Only Option

A member of the Microsoft Technical Community asks if it’s possible to automatically add newly-created accounts to an existing group. The initial response offered by the community focused on dynamic groups – either dynamic distribution lists or dynamic Azure AD groups.

It’s a reasonable suggestion. Dynamic distribution groups are part of base Exchange Online functionality and don’t require any additional licenses. Dynamic Azure AD groups require Azure AD Premium P1 licenses for every account covered by dynamic membership. In both cases, the trick is to make sure that the query used by Exchange Online or Azure AD to determine group membership finds the new account.

Dynamic Group Membership for Exchange Online Mailboxes

It’s possible to create a dynamic distribution group based on a simple query like “all mailboxes” that will automatically include new accounts (if they have mailboxes). Figure 1 shows the UX in the Exchange admin center (EAC) to define the membership of a new dynamic distribution list.

Figure 1: Dynamic membership settings for all mailboxes

The list works and email sent to it arrives in the inbox of every mailbox in the tenant, including shared mailboxes. This is because the recipient filter generated by Exchange Online for the dynamic distribution group selects all mail-enabled objects with a recipient type of ‘UserMailbox’ and only filters out some system mailboxes.

A dynamic distribution list like this is said to use a “canned” recipient filter because Exchange Online generates the filter based on the choices the administrator makes when they create the new list. You can only edit canned filters through the EAC. Exchange Online gives greater flexibility through the support of custom recipient filters. These filters can only be created using PowerShell, but they’re much more flexible in terms of selecting the set of mail-enabled objects to address through the list. A simple custom recipient filter to find just user mailboxes is shown below together with a test with the Get-Recipient cmdlet to prove that the filter works.

$Filter = "{RecipientTypeDetails -eq 'UserMailbox'}"
Get-Recipient -RecipientPreviewFilter $Filter

Dynamic Group Membership for Azure AD User Accounts

Dynamic Azure AD groups can be used with Microsoft 365 groups and Teams. These groups use different membership filters (query rules) to find the set of target objects. Instead of mail-enabled objects like mailboxes, the query against Azure AD focuses on user accounts rather than mailboxes. However, the same capability exists in that it’s possible to create a dynamic Azure AD group that includes all user accounts, including those newly created.

Again, the key is to construct a query rule that finds all user accounts – of the right type. When Azure AD is used for a Microsoft 365 tenant, there are many non-interactive user accounts created to give identities to objects such as shared mailboxes and room mailboxes. These are all considered “member” accounts and it’s easy to build a rule to find all member accounts. However, you probably want a more refined version that finds just the accounts used by humans.

Azure AD doesn’t have a human filter, so we need to construct something that Azure AD can use to find matching accounts in its directory. One approach is to use licenses for the check. You could look for accounts assigned Office 365 E3 licenses but would have to check for accounts with F1 or E5 licenses too. An easy change is to look for accounts that have any license that has at least one enabled service. For instance, accounts with Office 365 E3 or E5 licenses with the Exchange Online, Teams, Planner, or SharePoint Online service would all match. Figure 2 shows a test of the rule against a “real” user account and some other user accounts belonging to room and shared mailboxes. You can see that the real account passes the validation test while the others do not.

Testing the membership rule for a dynamic Azure AD group to find all user accounts
Figure 2: Testing the membership rule for a dynamic Azure AD group to find all user accounts

Azure AD accounts used by shared mailboxes must be assigned licenses when they need more than 50 GB of mailbox storage or an online archive. These accounts satisfy the membership rule, but that’s perhaps not important. If it is, some tweaking of the membership rule is necessary to remove the shared mailbox accounts.

Dynamic Group Membership of Org-Wide Teams

If your organization is smaller than 10,000 accounts, new Azure AD accounts automatically join the org-wide teams in the tenant (a tenant can support up to five org-wide teams). Org-wide teams are a special form of dynamic Microsoft 365 group whose membership is controlled by Teams rather than Azure AD, so Azure AD Premium P1 license are not required.

The PowerShell Alternative to Manage Dynamic Group Membership

If you don’t want to use a dynamic object, it’s certainly possible to use standard distribution lists or Microsoft 35 groups. In this scenario, the tenant takes the responsibility for maintaining group membership. Usually, PowerShell is used to add new accounts to group membership. You don’t have to worry about removing deleted accounts from the group as this happens automatically following an account deletion.

To add a new user to a distribution list, use the Add-DistributionGroupMember cmdlet:

Add-DistributionGroupMember -Identity "All Tenant Mailboxes" -Member

To add a new user account to a Microsoft 365 group, either run the Add-UnifiedGroupLinks cmdlet (from the Exchange Online management module) or the New-MgGroupMember cmdlet (from the Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK):

Add-UnifiedGroupLinks -Identity "All Tenant Accounts" -LinkType Member -Links

New-MgGroupMember -GroupId "107fe4dd-809c-4ec9-a3a1-ab88c96e0a5e" -DirectoryObjectId (Get-MgUser -UserId

If the tenant creates user accounts programmatically with PowerShell, these commands can be added to that script. If not, a background scheduled job could find accounts that don’t exist in group membership and add them. See this article for more information about group management with the Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK.

Many Possibilities to Ponder

A simple question required a long answer. That’s because the questioner didn’t specify what type of group that they wanted to add new accounts to. In any case, it’s nice to be able to debate the possibilities and then settle on the best course of action to take.

Insight about the various options to manage dynamic group membership for new accounts 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.

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