Dynamic Groups in Azure AD and Microsoft 365
Published Apr 12 2021 03:00 AM 41.8K Views

When I first started in IT, my large organization had an entirely separate "Data Security" team who were responsible for user management - adds/moves/deletes and password resets. They were a small but busy team, handling both calls from users via the helpdesk and requests generated by HR. Apart from using some Active Directory automation scripting with VBScript instead of the GUI, each request was handled individually.


Fast forward to 2021 and as well as replacing those scripts with PowerShell, we can use dynamic groups to maintain the group members based on the attributes of those members.


Why would you use Dynamic Groups?

Using a query-based membership, when you update the attributes of a user or device they will be added to or removed from the dynamic groups that are now relevant to them, without you having to do any other steps. You might have a dynamic group for people who have the same department name or location specified in their user account. You can combine more than one attribute so, for example, the group members have to both be in the Finance department and be located in Brisbane, Australia. You can even create a "direct reports" dynamic group for people who report to the same manager.


Devices can also be group members but you can't mix both users and devices in the same group. You could create dynamic groups of devices with the same operating system version, Intune device property label or enrolment profile name, for example.


For a full list of supported attribute queries and syntax, visit Dynamic membership rules for groups in Azure Active Directory. 



Dynamic membership is supported in security groups and Microsoft 365 groups. It requires an Azure AD P1 license for each unique user who is a member of one of or more dynamic groups. This is an overall count though - the P1 license doesn't have to be assigned to the people you want to be included in dynamic groups, but the total member count of people in dynamic groups must match or be exceeded by the total number of P1 licenses owned by your organization. Some Microsoft 365 license plans include this Azure AD premium functionality - E3, E5, MF1 and MF3. No licenses are required for devices that are members of dynamic groups.


Dynamic Groups in Azure Active Directory

The Azure portal provides a graphical-based rule builder for dynamic membership, which supports adding up to five expressions, and the ability to enter your query string directly into the text editor. You also need to use the text editor for the "direct reports" scenario I mentioned above, setting operator precedence, and for writing more complex rules.

Adding a dynamic membership rule to a group in the Azure PortalAdding a dynamic membership rule to a group in the Azure Portal


Operator precedence is where we want a part of the query to be evaluated before another part. For example, we can use parenthesis to build a list of matching department names (finance or HR) and add that to the Brisbane location:




user.city -eq "Brisbane"-and (user.department -eq "Finance" -or user.department -eq "HR")





To build more complex queries, you can use the following operators:
-eq -ne -startsWith -notStartsWith -contains -notContains -match –notMatch -in -notIn
-any -all

Example: Direct Reports

This rule maintains members who have their Manager property set to the same Manager ID. The Manager ID is the unique object identifier found in the manager's profile. It does not support subgroups and can't be combined with any other membership rules.




Direct Reports for "{objectID_of_manager}" for example Direct Reports for "62e19b97-8b3d-4d4a-a106-4ce66896a863"





Example: On-premises domain membership

If you're synchronizing identities from Active Directory to Azure Active Directory, you can build dynamic groups based on which Active Directory Domain the user belongs to. This is based on the user's Security Identifier (SID). You can use PowerShell to query the users with a domain filter to get the start of the SID that you need:




Get-ADUser -Filter * -SearchBase "dc=domain,dc=local" | select Name,SID




Then use the rule syntax that queries Azure AD for the user.onPremisesSecurityIdentifier attribute:




(user.onPremisesSecurityIdentifier -startsWith "S-1-5-21-12345678-1234567891-123456789")




Verifying members of your dynamic group

When an identity attribute of a user or a device changes, Azure AD evaluates all dynamic membership rules that exist in that directory, triggering any relevant membership additions or removals. You can also see the list of current group members via the Azure portal, or use the following PowerShell command for a simple list:





(Get-AzADGroup -DisplayName "<DisplayNameofGroup>" | Get-AzADGroupMember).DisplayName





Note: This requires the Azure Active Directory PowerShell module that you can download here. 


In preview, is the ability to validate your rules against up to 20 users or devices. The Validate Rules tab will run your query against your selected target users or devices and confirm if they would meet the requirements to be a group member or not. For more information, visit Validate a dynamic group membership rule (preview) in Azure Active Directory. 

Microsoft 365 groups and Microsoft Teams dynamic membership

Microsoft 365 groups (as a group type) provision access across a selection of Microsoft 365 services for a group of people who will be working together. They are designed to prove quick and easy access, removing the administration overhead of an IT Pro needing to set permission on several different Microsoft 365 services, including Teams, a SharePoint Online site, a Planner Plan, a Power BI workspace and a shared mailbox. This group type also supports dynamic membership, created via the Azure Portal the same as you would an Azure AD security group.


By using this group type and dynamic membership, you can add and remove members to a Microsoft Team automatically, without the team owner needing to do any administration tasks.


To achieve this, you can either:
Create your Microsoft 365 group in Azure Active Directory, adding your dynamic membership rule.
Then either create a new team from this group (after giving Azure AD time to update). 


Or apply dynamic membership to an existing team by changing its group membership from static to dynamic. 


For more details, visit Overview of dynamic membership for Teams. 


What about dynamic distribution groups?

Yes, Exchange Online supports dynamic membership for email distribution groups! Unlike security groups, the group membership is calculated each time a message is sent to the group. To set up and manage dynamic distribution groups, you need to use the Exchange Admin Center or Exchange Online PowerShell.


This example creates a dynamic group of Full Time Employees by querying a custom attribute:



New-DynamicDistributionGroup -Name "Full Time Employees" -RecipientFilter "(RecipientTypeDetails -eq 'UserMailbox') -and (CustomAttribute10 -eq 'FullTimeEmployee')"



For details, visit Manage dynamic distribution groups.

You also need to use Exchange Online PowerShell to query the list of group members at this point in time, as they can't be viewed in the Exchange Admin Center or the Azure Portal:



$FTE = Get-DynamicDistributionGroup "Full Time Employees"
Get-Recipient -ResultSize Unlimited -RecipientPreviewFilter $FTE.RecipientFilter -OrganizationalUnit $FTE.RecipientContainer | Format-Table Name,Primary*



Check out View members of a dynamic distribution group for more details.


Dynamic group membership is a powerful feature, but like any technology capability it requires planning and alignment with your organization's needs and its business processes. What scenarios do you have where dynamic groups would be useful? Need help writing more complex queries? Let us know in the comments!



















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‎Apr 12 2021 01:45 AM
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