Tag Archives: Orphan Ownerless Sites and Groups in Microsoft 365

The term describes any resource that does not have an owner, Including ownerless m365 groups and all ownerless resources under Microsoft 365 etc.

Below are some articles on the subject:

Dealing with Ownerless Groups in large Microsoft 365 environments

WIP

Scenario

Let say you administer a large Microsoft 365 environment (e.g. ~100k+ users and/or ~50K+ sites) and after some years you have a lot of ownerless groups and sites (around 5k probably), and a lot of inactive groups and sites (maybe 15k). You are getting more and more ownerless groups – dozens each week. You are thinking of stopping bleeding and cleaning this up…

Out-of-the-box we have Microsoft 365 groups expiration policy and Microsoft 365 ownerless groups policy. You might also have some 3-rd party tools implemented – e.g. ShareGate, SysKit Point.

If you do not care – you might just activate both OotB Microsoft policies – via GUI – they are simple to activate. But once you activated policies – they will trigger thousands of emails. Now imagine a person is getting dozens of emails asking him/her to be an owner or to renew the group that probably he/she has no idea about… What will happen next? People will probably ignore these alerts. Then? Groups and sites will be automatically deleted. And then? Right, there will be a huge noise and many angry users and high-priority tickets and you will have to restore sites/teams and finally you’ll have to deal with all that mess manually.

So, what is the right way to clean-up a large Microsoft 365 environment from ownerless and inactive teams, groups sites? Not a trivial question, hah?

Solution

Disclaimer: I’m sharing here my personal opinion with no obligations or warranty etc., so you’d dig into all the technologies used and based on your particular situation build your own plan. But my personal opinion is based on my 15+ years experience with SharePoint, including really large environments.

Note: It is always a good idea to discuss your plans with you org’s communication team and helpdesk/service-desk to adjust clean-up activities with other initiatives and let other people be prepared.

High-level steps for group-based Sites:

  • consider implementing Minimum 2 owners per group policy to stop bleeding. Currently Microsoft 365 does not have such functionality, so consider 3-rd party tool like SysKit Point or custom PowerShell script that sends notifications
    • apply this policy to groups where you already have 2+ owners – it’ll be safe
    • apply this policy to all other groups by chanks
  • consider custom PowerShell clean-up, e.g. you can simply delete groups with no owners and no members and/or inactive groups with no content and/or groups that are inactive for a long time (this must be aligned with business and legal)
  • implement Microsoft’s Ownerless groups policy in “Clean-Up” configuration; there are some tricks and gotchas worth a separate post, but in short
    • avoid scoping down this policy via people (security groups)
    • implement it for all groups all users with 6-7 weeks and custom e-mail template
  • implement Microsoft groups expiration policy in “Clean-Up” configuration… again, there are a few different strategies – see this article
  • change Microsoft Ownerless groups policy configuration to a “Permanent” mode configuration set
  • change Microsoft 365 groups expiration policy with a “Permanent” mode configuration

Note: There will always be ownerless groups in large environment. We have to live with it.

All above was mostly about group-based sites (as we have OotB Microsoft policies for groups), but we probably have the same problem (or even worth) with standalone sites (that would be a separate topic).

Ownerless groups and dependent channels

Here is the scenario:

There is a team (including SharePoint site) under Microsoft Teams. There are multiple channels under this team with types:
– standard channel
– shared channel
– private channel

A single group owner (team owner) leaves company and the team (group) becomes ownerless. Question: what will happen with private and shared channels?

A group (team) gets a new owner. Question: what will happen with private and shared channels?

“Microsoft Teams – Teams And Channels Service made you an owner of a channel”

TBP

Archiving SharePoint Sites

WIP

What is archiving SharePoint sites and why we’d need it?

Disclaimer: Archival that was announced at Microsoft Inspire 2023 (Introducing Microsoft 365 Backup and Microsoft 365 Archive) is not what we are discussing here.

Scenario

(Work in progress)

You are in the process of cleaning-up large Microsoft 365 environment. You need to delete SharePoint sites (e.g. due to inactivity) but you cannot get confirmation from site owners (e.g. sites or groups are ownerless).

Deleted sites could be restored within 93 days of deletion if somebody rise a hand, but there is still a risk of possible loosing of important information, e.g. in case site is needed one a year. So you need to do clean-up but at the same time you want to decrease risks of loosing information.

So, you might want to do something with sites to engage users to volunteer to be site owner if they want to keep this site – e.g. prevents using the site the regular way and let users know that the site will be deleted etc., but do not actually delete site until it will be fully clear that site is not needed for anyone and can be safely deleted.

Let us call it “Staging” period. Depending on your org culture/rules/licensing etc. it might be 6 months, or 1 year or 5 years or more.

Approach options

generally, the options are (random order):

  • Set site to Read-Only mode
  • Set site to No-Access mode
  • Convert group from Public to Private
  • Remove access to the site (remove users from group)
  • Rename the site
  • Put a banner on a top bar with a message
  • Message to Teams or Yammer chat
  • Send e-mail to site members
  • Implement a Microsoft 365 ownerless groups policy

You might choose to set sites to read-only mode or even no-access mode. If so – users that are still need this site are loosing ability to work with site, but site is not deleted. Consider archiving as kind of scream-test phase before actual sites deletion.

If a user who needs this site would scream (rise a ticket to restore site) – you can trigger processes of
a) finding new owner for the site
b) excluding the site from clean-up process
c) actual restoring site to normal mode

There are some options to setup a site to Read-Only or NoAccess mode. Here is the PowerShell command:


$siteurl = "https://contoso.sharepoint.com/teams/Team-SO-B"
Get-PnPTenantSite -Identity $siteurl   | ft -a Url, LockState
Set-PnPTenantSite -Identity $siteurl -LockState ReadOnly
Get-PnPTenantSite -Identity $siteurl   | ft -a Url, LockState
Set-PnPTenantSite -Identity $siteurl -LockState NoAccess
Get-PnPTenantSite -Identity $siteurl   | ft -a Url, LockState
Set-PnPTenantSite -Identity $siteurl -LockState Unlock

The problem is what if the site is teams-connected or yammer-connected or just group-based. Here are some test results:

Services SharePoint site is connected to/Site StateRead-OnlyNoAccess
Outlook onlyN/AN/A
SharePoint and OutlookOutlook emails: OK
Outlook files: read-only experience; No options to upload or create document; Documents are open in read-only mode. “The file couldn`t be saved to group” error message when trying to save file to a group library.
Outlook emails: OK
Outlook files: empty screen; No error messages; Documents are not visible; “The file couldn`t be saved to group” error message when trying to save file to a group library.
SharePoint and Yammer
SharePoint, Teams and OutlookTeams chats: OK
Teams files: documents are open as read-only; No options to upload or create a new document
SharePoint: “This site is read-only at the administrator’s request.”
Teams chats: OK
Teams files: “403 FORBIDDEN” error message
SharePoint: “
This site can’t be reached
The webpage at https://contoso.sharepoint.com/teams/Team-STO-B might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
ERR_INVALID_RESPONSE”

So you can see – behavior is inconsistent – users can still chat in Teams and Yammer and consume SharePoint content (in case the site in read-only) or get error messages or not very meaningful results (in case the site is in NoAccess mode) – so it would be not clear for users that the site is gong to be decommissioned.

to be continued…

Ownerless groups in Microsoft 365

I have multiple publications on the subject – how to manage ownerless groups in Microsoft 365:

And 9 videos :

Here is the Introduction video and content covered in next videos:

Ownerless group policy configuration failed

If you are seeing “Ownerless group policy configuration failed” and “Please try again.” error message:

there might be some different reasons:

  1. Microsoft said it is (was) a know problem – it happens sometimes (timeout?), if you configured the policy properly and have enough permissions.
    So just go back one step and try again – all should be good.
  2. Sometimes “Ownerless group policy configuration failed. Failure in configuring ownerless groups policy” is a permissions issue
    SharePoint admin, Teams admin: cannot configure Ownerless Groups Policy
    Global admin: yes, can configure Ownerless Microsoft 365 Groups Policy.
    What is the minimum role required?
    According to a recent update of the Microsoft’s article – “A Global administrator can create a policy…”. In my experience – groups admin can also configure the policy

Note: Groups admin when configuring the policy can see warning message “You don’t have permissions to save changes”.
No worries 🙂 => You will be able to save changes 🙂

Video tutorial on the policy configuration (at around 5:00 you can see this error message):

Implementing Microsoft 365 group expiration policy in large companies

This post is dedicated to one specific subject: implementing Microsoft 365 groups lifecycle (expiration) policy in large Microsoft 365 environments.

But this post is also a part of a bigger problem – dealing with ownerless resources in Large Microsoft 365 environments. Please refer to the umbrella post.

Scenario

You administer a large Microsoft 365 environment. Let say you have 100k users or more, 50K or more sites. Environment is not new, so after some years you have a lot of ownerless groups and sites (thousands probably), and a lot of inactive groups and sites (probably tens of thousands). You are getting more and more ownerless groups – hundreds each month. You are thinking of stopping bleeding and cleaning this up…

Implementing Microsoft 365 groups expiration policy

If you are thinking of activating in an existing environment – you would probably have a spike – all the old groups will be subject to policy. The ide is to avoid situation when a specific person – group owner will get dozens of email. It would be better if a person will receieve, let say one email per week.

Here is my 4 possible approaches to avoid this spike, distribute notifications evenly across the time and ease the pain:

By changing Group Lifetime

You would need to change the policy every, e.g. week, specifying different group lifetime in days period. Consider
– calculate number of days between the oldest group created an today, plus 35 days – it’ll be your first “group lifetime”
– activate the policy with this number of days in “group lifetime” – and within a week you will get notifications on the oldest group/groups
– after a week or two – change the “group lifetime” decreasing it by e.g. 30-60 days and reactivate the policy… and so on

You can easily calculate it all and choose your pace depending on how many groups you have to renew, how much time you need to clean-up. You got the idea.

Downside – in the email notification it will be said “otherwise the group will be deleted on …”, but once you start joggling with dates – this will not be true probably.

By renewing groups as admin

tbp

By sending customized e-mails to users

tbp

By sending users to the groups page

tbp

Microsoft 365 group expiration policy deep dive

Nobody likes garbage, including Microsoft 365 administrators. If any user can create a team or yammer community – they create, but then they leave company and we are getting more and more abandoned groups, teams and SharePoint sites. So we need a way to clean up environment. There is a Microsoft 365 groups expiration policy that can help remove unused groups from the system, but since all Teams and Yammer sites are group-based – it also helps SharePoint admins make things cleaner.

Who can configure the policy and how

The policy lives under Azure Portal, Azure Active Directory, Groups, Expiration:

Microsoft 365 groups expiration policy can be configured by Groups Admin or Global Admin (tenant admin) only. Microsoft 365 Teams or SharePoint admin cannot configure it. Microsoft says that User administrator can do it – so I need to verify it.

Here is the policy config screen:

Microsoft documented it well in the “Microsoft 365 group expiration policy“, but I completed some tests in my lab environment and here is what I found and what is not covered by Microsoft. Let me share it with Questions and Answers format:

Questions and Answers

General questions

Q: How long it takes for policy to start generating notification emails after activation?
A: Immediately, i.e. minutes, maybe up to one hour (in case there groups that are subject for the policy).

Q: Can I customize email that is send to group owners?
A: No, there is no such option at the moment.

Q: What is the email address notifications come from?
A: It’s “msgroupsteam@microsoft.com” with the display name “Microsoft Groups Team”

Q: What does a notification email look like?
A: Please find some examples below, in the end of this article.

Q: Are there other ways to get notifications? Teams?
A: I have not seen any official Microsoft’s documentation on this, but yes – notifications are coming via Teams too: “TeamName is expiring soon. Renew now”:

though it is not clear what exactly should used do to renew the group, as after clicking on that alert a regular teams settings page is opened:

and I got just a few notification in teams, though e-mails notifications I got many.


Q: What happens when a user clicks “Renew group” button in the email notification?
A: User will be sent to a Microsoft’s page and the following “Do you want to renew the group?” window will be shown:

On Yes, it says”<groupName> was successfully renewed. You can close this window now”:

And the group expiration date will be set up as current date.
On “No” it says “Group was not renewed. You can close this window now.”:

And an expiration day will not be changed. No more notifications will be generated. The group will be active until expiration date. Then the group will be deleted.

Q: What if two owners choose opposite?
A: The last action will take effect.

Q: what if one user choose “delete group” but the other one later decided “Renew group”?
A: The one who click “Renew group” will see “<Group Name> successfully renewed. Because the group was deleted, it might take up to 24 hours to be fully restored. You can close this window now.”

Q: What if the group does not have owners?
A: If the group is orphan (ownerless), the expiration emails will go to the email specified in policy configuration. Usually it is a distribution list with admins or other responsible team.

Q: What if the group does have a non-mail-enabled owner?
A: I have tested 2 types of entities with no email:
– just a contact in Outlook
– user with no Exchange license assigned
Results are: Outlook contact cannot be added to team, so there should be no contacts as teams/groups owners; a user with no Exchange licens can be added to team/group and Microsoft does not consider this group ownerless, so notification should be sent to group owners, but since there is no email associated to a group owner – e-mail are not sent, so we are having an issue here.

Q: What if I deactivate the policy – will email notifications sent earlier still be actionable?
In other words, would users still be able to renew the group clicking on the “Renew group” button?
A: Yes. Actually “Renew group” button is just a link to the Url:
https://account.activedirectory.windowsazure.com/Group/RenewGroup?tenantId=<tenantId>&id=<groupId>
where a group owner can renew group.

Q: If one of the owners renewed the group – what will happen with notifications sent to other owner? What if other owner click “Renew group” or “delete group”?
A: Notifications sent will stay. Since buttons in the email are just links (not actionable buttons) – user will be redirected to a web-page where he/she will be able to renew or delete the group.

Q: As per MS: “Groups that are actively in use are renewed automatically around 35 days before the group expires. In this case, the owner does not get any renewal notifications. Any of the following actions will automatically renew a group…<list of actions>”. So, what exactly does “Groups that are actively in use” mean?
A: This is not disclosed by Microsoft. They only say “Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), part of Microsoft Entra, uses intelligence to automatically renew groups based on whether they have been in recent use. This renewal decision is based on user activity in groups across Microsoft 365 services like Outlook, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer, and others.” Btw, <list of actions> includes almost all user actions – so basically any action – even just visit site/team is considered as activity.

Q: Can I track the policy in action via audit log?
A: There is no “activity type” for this policy’s specific actions… You also cannot specify user “msgroupsteam@microsoft.com” to get all activities. So no tracks on the policy “before action” – i.e. at the detection and e-mailing stage.
If a user clicks “renew” button or “delete group” link – this should be logged as this user action with Category “GroupManagement” and activity: “Update group” and “RenewedDateTime” as property modified.
If it happens that the group is deleted by policy – this should be logged under policy’s account – see below.

Automatically renewed group appears as audit log event with
– Workload: AzureActiveDirectory
– RecordType: 8 “AzureActiveDirectory”
– Activity: “Update group”
– Properties modified would be “RenewedDateTime”

Automatically deleted group appears as audit log event with
– Workload: AzureActiveDirectory
– RecordType: 8 “AzureActiveDirectory”
– Activity: “Delete group.”

Microsoft groups lifetime policy operates on behalf of Actor (first-party Microsoft service principal):

  • AppName: Microsoft.ApprovalManagement
  • AppId: 65d91a3d-ab74-42e6-8a2f-0add61688c74
  • Object Id: f64c9eca-18fd-4652-bafe-897fd2d46798

more on first-party Microsoft service principals

Q: After the group is deleted, who can restore it?
A: MS says: “A deleted Microsoft 365 group can be restored within 30 days by a group owner or by an Azure AD administrator”.
In fact, SharePoint admin (and maybe some other roles like Teams admin or Exchange admin) can restore group. SharePoint admin can restore site from recycle bin – and the group will be restored as well.

Q: My org is using retention policies. Will the lifecycle policy delete site if it contradicts with retention policy?
A: Lifecycle policy respects retention policy, so if the site should not be deleted according to retention policy or legal hold – the site will not be deleted (TBC – need to be validated).

Q: What if a user forward this e-mail notification to other user? Can this other user renew or delete the group?
A: When a user receive a notification email forwarded, and he/she click “Renew group” button – his/her experience will be the same if he/she is also a group owner. If a user is not a group owner – he/she will get “You don’t have permission to renew this group because you’re not an owner. To renew , contact a group owner. You can close this window now.”:

Note: if a user with active groups administration permissions receives email and try to renew or delete the group – he/she will also be able to do that.

Q: Can user get information on groups he/her owns, groups expiration data? Can user renew the group before the policy trigger email notification?
A: yes, all that can be done from the page: https://myaccount.microsoft.com/groups/groups-i-own

Q: What if I activate m365 groups lifecycle policy for the selected groups only?
Any insight on policy behavior?
A: The policy will work as usual, but for the selected groups only. Separate from the policy – under “my groups” users will be able to see “Expiration date” and “Renew” option for groups in policy’s scope only:

Scenario with many existing inactive groups

Let say we have a large Microsoft 365 environment with many inactive groups, some of them are inactive for a long time – e.g. 1 or 2 years. We want to implement groups expiration policy, but we want to understand better the policy behavior.

Microsoft says: “The expiration period begins when the group is created, or on the date it was last renewed” and “When you change the expiration policy, the service recalculates the expiration date for each group. It always starts counting from the date when the group was created, and then applies the new expiration policy.”
So in case we implement the policy first time, we know that Renewal Date for all groups is just a Group Creation Date.

Q: What will happen if I activate the policy – will the policy start generating emails immediately for all groups?
A: Yes. Once activated – policy starts detecting expired groups and sending notifications to groups owners. So if you have 3k expired groups with 6k owners in it – expect policy will generate 6k e-mail notifications.

Q: Which groups the policy will be triggered against? All or Inactive only?
A: As per Microsoft, if at around 35 days before expiration it will be determined that group is actually active, the policy can renew the group automatically.
But definition of this activity is not disclosed and might be not the same as group activity status 90 days based on MS Graph data you can see at CA.
(I got notifications for groups that were not active recently but with Active status).

Q: In the case above – what would be the deadline? When the policy will delete the group?
A: If the group expiration period is passed, but the policy was just activated – it does not delete the group immediately. Policy allows ~30-35 days for owners to renew the group.
E.g. My test policy was activated May 3 and I got message for old group immediately, but it said that the group will be deleted on June 7.

Q: What if there are more than 10K emails – will it trigger Exchange throttling?
A: Most likely emails not sent will be sent next day.

Q: Can I specify a distribution list in the policy as an “Email contact for groups with no owners”?
A: Yes

Q: Can I specify an external e-mail address as an “Email contact for groups with no owners”?
A: TBC

Q: Can admin ask user to renew or delete the group by some other custom solution (skipping the policy)?
A: yes. Actually, “Renew group” button is just a link to the following Url:
https://account.activedirectory.windowsazure.com/Group/RenewGroup?tenantId=<tenantId>&id=<groupId>
where <tenantId> is tenant id and <groupId> is group Id. So basically anyone

Microsoft 365 Groups object model

Let me explain the policy behavior in m365 group object model terms.

There is a group property “RenewedDateTime”. When group is created – this property is set up to group created date/time (same as group CreatedDateTime property value).
For the notification purposes the policy calculates “Expected Expiration DateTime” as RenewedDateTime plus “Group LifeTime” (number of days specified in policy, e.g. 180). First notification is triggered about 30 days before “Expected Expiration DateTime”, so the policy simply selects groups with RenewedDateTime property value less then current DateTime minus “Group LifeTime days” minus 30 days and sends notification starting from oldest group:

RenewedDateTime < Today - GroupLifeTime -30

When owner confirms group is still needed – RenewedDateTime is setup to current DateTime.

Q: When a user chose to “Renew group” – will it impact group activity?
A: No. If a user did not visit group – but just clicked “Renew group” – it will not trigger group last activity date. E.g. inactive group will still be inactive.

Q: Is there an API to configure Microsoft 365 groups expiration policy programmatically?
A: Yes, in MS Graph API it is called Group Lifecycle Policy: groupLifecyclePolicy

Q: Can I programmatically renew the group (all groups) as an admin?
A: Yes, consider using Microsoft Graph API or PowerShell 7 with PnP.PowerShell module.
PnP Doc says Reset-PnPMicrosoft365GroupExpiration command “Renews the Microsoft 365 Group by extending its expiration with the number of days defined in the group expiration policy set on the Azure Active Directory” – but that does not seem accurate. This command sets up “RenewedDateTime” group property to the current datetime, not related to current policy settings (the policy might even not have been activated).
Microsoft Graph API entry point: “POST /groups/{id}/renew
Group.ReadWrite.All permissions required.

Q: Is it possible to setup “RenewedDateTime” property to another date/time of my choice (not the current date)?
A: Apparently that is not possible. I could not find a way so far… It says
Property 'renewedDateTime' is read-only and cannot be set.

Q: What permissions are required to renew the group with Reset-PnPMicrosoft365GroupExpiration?
A: Group.ReadWrite.All – delegated or application

Q: What exactly is behind the automatic groups renewal?
A: Actually, the is a separate process in parallel with groups expiration policy – and this process starts monitoring groups activity ~35 days before expiration and once activity is detected – the process resets group RenewedDateTime property. And the moment this date is reset – the group is excluded from policy.

Q: If I activate the policy not for all but for a selected groups only, will I still be able to renew other groups programmatically?
A: Yes, as an admin – you can resets group RenewedDateTime property programmatically all alone. It does not matter – whether this policy is activated or not.

Screenshots

Notification e-mail that comes to group owners “as is” – web outlook view:

Notification e-mail that comes to group owners when content is unblocked (web outlook):

Notification e-mail that comes to group owners when pictures are loaded (desktop Outlook):

Notification e-mail that comes to group owners some key areas:

And I’d add that e-mail says how many members in this group (number of members, not including owners… i.e. if you are the only owner – it’ll be zero members).
Correction: “Renew group” is not an actionable button – it is just a html button with a link.

Screenshot of the notification that comes to email specified in policy for the groups that does not have owners:

  • Outlook icon link sends user to group mailbox
  • SharePoint icon is the link to the associated SharePoint site
  • Clicking on Teams icon will transfer user to a default team channel chat page
  • the last one – group icon – is the link to a Microsoft’s groups management page where user can edit group, manage membership, renew group or delete group (see screenshot below):

Renew group button is visible if the expiration policy is activated:

Deleted group

When the not renewed group reaches expiration date – the policy deletes the group and group owners get an e-mail notification like this:

Email subject would be “Attention: <group name> was deleted. Restore it by Thursday, August 10, 2023” and in the body “

<group name> expired on Monday, July 10, 2023. It was deleted, along with all associated communications, files, calendar events, and tasks. You have 30 days from the expiration date to restore Test Priv team – ownerless groups policy and its content. You received this email because you’re an owner of the group”.

Owner can restore group within 30 days by simply clicking “Restore group” button. Then owner would be redirected to the “https://myaccount.microsoft.com/groups/action?groupId=<groupId>&action=Restore” and get a message “The group was successfully restored. It might take up to 24 hours before you can access all associated content. You can close this window now.”

References

Ownerless Microsoft 365 groups in large environments

Usually Microsoft 365 group can be created by anyone in your org as part of creation a team, Yammer community, Outlook group, SharePoint site etc. If the group owner lefts the company and account got deleted – the group became ownerless.

It would be a nightmare if we’d reach ownerless groups members peron-to-person trying to find out who is a real data owner and who should be a group owner. So we need some kind of automated way.

There is a Microsoft’s ownerless groups policy that detects ownerless groups and sends emails the most active groups members with the question- if they want to become a group owners and in case member accept ownership – policy automatically elevates a person from a group member to group owner. Policy does not cover standalone sites, but majority of orphaned resources in org are usually m365 groups, so that policy should help.

The policy was designed to prevent ownerless groups concept in mind, i.e. to deal with ownerless groups gradually – stretched in time – when they become ownerless. So it is actually recommended to activate the policy once you get the tenant right away. Configuration is done via GUI, it is intuitive and straightforward. Microsoft documented it well, but if you still have questions regarding the policy behavior – here is my Q&A on what is not covered by Microsoft’s FAQ as well as some tips and tricks and gotchas…

The problem is that Microsoft introduced this feature just recently, and if you own the tenant for years, you probably already have some ownerless groups. In small and medium environments with a few dozens of ownerless groups it’s not a big issue, but in a large Microsoft 365 SharePoint Online environment you might end up having hundreds and thousands of ownerless (orphaned) resources you have to deal with.

The challenge is how to implement the policy correctly if there are already many ownerless groups present and then to take care of groups that will become ownerless in the future. Yes, we’d need to address two consecutive issues:

  • Remediate vast amount of existing ownerless groups
  • Prevent groups to become ownerless

Obviously we’d need two different strategies and policies configurations.

There are also 3-rd party tools – like SysKit Point that can help with orphaned resources by enforcing minimum number of owners. There is also “Orphaned resources” policy under SysKit that allows multiple workflow options to resolve the issue – but there is no “fully automated” option -all SysKit options require an interaction from admin/manager.

Microsoft 365 built-in feature – “Ownerless groups policy” allows fully automated process:

  • detects ownerless groups, and for every group found
  • generate e-mail invitations to most active group members
  • assigns users as group owners if they accept invitation

Another problem in large environments is we have strict requirements we want to satisfy:

  • end-users to get only a few emails in a certain period so they can process it
  • end-users get only relevant messages so they will not ignore further notifications
  • high percentage of acceptance and (ideally) no orphaned resources

We want the policy to be tested in production but within a small group first and then we want phased implementation – so we could have a chance to get a feedback on phase 1 and adjust our approach at phase 2 etc.

The policy allows limiting policy scope in two ways:

  • by limiting “who can receive” messages – it’s done by specifying a security group – so only this security group members will be eligible to get invitation and accept or decline it
  • by limiting Microsoft 365 groups that would be in scope for the policy – it’s done by specifying group names

Two options can be specified in the same policy and effective eligible members would be those who satisfy both requirements.

Configuration is done using GUI – i.e. there is no PowerShell commands known on the subject at the moment.

There are a lot of “what if” questions regarding the policy – most of them are resolved in Microsoft’s “Microsoft 365 ownerless group policy FAQ” and my Ownerless m365 groups Q&As, gotchas, findings…

But the most important gotcha for me is that we do not have a chance to re-configure the policy or re-activate it to get more messages for the groups all messages were generated earlier. I.e. if an e-mail messages were generated for a group and the policy stopped working after a specified period of time – it’d done forever. No more e-mails could be generated for the same group.

The other limit is you can specify maximum 50 m365 groups in policy under Apply policy to Specific groups option. And we’d keep in mind exchange’s limit of 10k emals per day.

So, having this said, what would be the proper approach to do phased implementation in terms of configuring policy to scope it down for each step?

First – know your data. Get full report on ownerless groups, analyze it and come up with approach. Let’s assume we have an org with ~100K users and ~5000 ownerless groups. I bet you will find out that you have

  • large m365 groups (50+ members): <1%, i.e. 10-20 groups
  • medium m365 groups (5-50 members): ~25%, i.e. ~1000-2000 groups
  • small m365 groups (1-5 members): ~50%, i.e. ~2500 groups
  • null m365 groups (0 members): ~25%, i.e. ~1000-2000 groups

You’d might have your own classification, but I would propose the following approach to each category.

  • large groups:
    configure policy with “Apply policy to Specific groups” option
    and specify all or several of your large groups (the limit if 50 allowed groups in this field)
  • medium groups:
    configure policy not scoped down (e.g. apply to all groups, all users)
  • small groups:
    elevate all group members to owners
    optionally – elevate specific titles (manager, lead) or salary grade members to owners
  • null groups:
    consider deleting these groups
    optionally – delete only inactive no-members groups or groups with no or small amount of storage/files.

You’d also come up with the ideas on

  • desired min and max number of owners
  • deleting groups/sites phased approach
  • archiving groups/teams/sites

Remember – this is production, so at this moment you should test the policy in non-prod an be fully comfortable with all aspects of configuring the policy and formatting e-mail template etc.

As a remediation part plan I would propose the following:

(WIP)

Wave 0 – piloting

select a few (3-5) ownerless m365 groups came from IT – whose members are your pilot team members, so you could finalize all settings and polish notification message etc.

Implement the policy with settings:

In parallel, while you are waiting weeks for the policy to pause, start developing PowerShell scripts that will 1) delete null (no members) groups and 2) elevate members to owners (get how many members can be elevated if elevate only certain members)

Track user’s response – % of declines and accepts

Get feedback from users – how well the notification message is understandable

Wave 1 – large groups and small groups

Implement the policy with settings:

In parallel, you should already know – how many members can be elevated if elevate only certain members, decide on that and and run PowerShell script that elevates members to owners.

Wave 2 – medium groups and null groups

Implement the policy with settings:

In parallel, run PowerShell script removes groups with no owners and no members (optionally inactive and/or no content).

Wave 3 – all groups left ownerless

Implement the policy with settings:

Wave 4 – permanent policy and deletion script

Implement the policy with settings:

two more moments to consider:
– After all the measures against ownerless groups is done, we will probably still have some groups ownerless
– We will be getting new ownerless groups permanently – during all the waves of policy implementation

Qestions and Answers

Q: Isn’t it a security risk if we elevate members to owners? Would a member get access to more information that he/she did have access to before.
A: 1) Elevating members is the same risk as implementing the ownerless policy, as policy does the same – it elevates member to group owner.
2) When a member is elevated to group owners – a member does not get access to more information, as
a) for standard channels – he/she did have access as a member
b) private channels stays private – new group owner dos not get access to private channels automatically
c) shared channels stays with the same permissions also

TBC

References