Understanding the Office 365 user activity view

Blog Post created by thomas.sautelle3 Employee on Dec 21, 2017

In Snow License Manager 8.1.0, we added the Microsoft Office 365 user activity view to the Snow License Manager interface. Given the feedback we have received, it seems the purpose of this page is unclear. In this post, I aim to shed some light on how you can use the data provided by the view to harvest subscriptions and optimize parts of your Office 365 landscape. As a primer on the concepts we have developed to harvest and optimize Office 365 subscriptions, I suggest you read this post first. But if you want to dig in to the product directly, a detailed guide with steps and screen dumps, can be found in an accompanying post, How to use the Office 365 user activity view for subscription harvesting and optimization.


The purpose of the user activity view is to highlight potential opportunities for harvesting and optimizing Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions based on the usage information provided by the Office portal for your organization. For the moment, the view in Snow License Manager shows billable subscriptions – it does not display free-of-charge apps. The view shows all Microsoft subscriptions purchased; unfortunately, however, usage information is not yet available for all plans.

The opportunities for harvesting – reassigning a subscription to another user – and optimizing subscriptions by moving users to cheaper plans are limited by the data available. For the moment, we can track use of Exchange, Skype for Business, or any of the applications in the ProPlus Suite (such as Word and PowerPoint), but this will evolve as we expand and improve the user activity view in upcoming releases.


Harvesting unused subscriptions

The best volume-licensing deals are often based on an up-front annual commitment, and indeed for Office 365 ProPlus, and Enterprise plans E1, E3, and E5, the 12-month obligation is a requirement. And depending on the deal you have with Microsoft, cancelling a subscription before the renewal date may incur early termination fees.


So, what can you do with subscriptions that you are paying for that are not being used? Currently, Microsoft allows an Office 365 subscription to be assigned to another user after 90 days. As a means of filtering candidate subscriptions for harvesting, we created the concept of Active user. Users that have accessed their Office 365 subscription, by say opening Word or Outlook within the past 30 days fall into this category.


Hopefully, most of your users will be active and they can be ignored for the purposes of subscription harvesting.

For inactive users, deeper investigation is needed, so we created some additional user categories, including: no activity, no recent activity, and no recent application activity.


Users who have been assigned with a subscription, but have never opened any of the Office applications we can track are categorized as: no activity. The information displayed on the user activity panel shows the number of users that fall into this category, and by selecting it, more details about who these users are and the number of days since they were assigned a subscription is available – details that can be used as a basis for determining if the subscription can be harvested. Users showing no activity may, for example, have left the company, they might be consultants no longer working for your organization, out of the office on leave, or migrated to another organization. Whatever the reason, these users provide you with a good starting point for subscription harvesting.


The second place to look for potential harvesting candidates is users that fall into the no recent activity category, which identifies users that haven’t opened any tracked applications for more than 30 days. Like the no activity category, additional details about the users and the duration of their inactivity is available as you dig deeper into the view.


Optimizing subscriptions

User behavior changes over time, they stop using applications as their needs change – they use new software and come back from time to time to old favorites. Sometimes, on-boarding processes may assign a subscription plan to users based on their roles rather than need often leading to overspend on some users and missing functionality for others. The enterprise plans offered by Microsoft differ quite significantly in functionality and price – providing many opportunities for optimization, if you know what your users are doing/need.


So, we created the no recent application activity category to pinpoint users who have not used the installed version of the applications included in their Office 365 subscription. An E1 subscription plan, for example, only includes the online version of Office 365 applications as opposed to others, like the E3 plan, which includes full installation of applications on up to 5 machines. By identifying online-only users, you may be able to move users with no recent application activity to cheaper subscription plans.  



If decisions to harvest and optimize were straightforward, I would suggest automating these processes. However, for the moment, the data provided by the user activity view needs to be considered within its limitations. Given that we can only track use of Exchange, Skype for Business, or any of the applications in the ProPlus Suite (such as Word and PowerPoint), users that don’t use these applications will fall into the no recent activity and/or the no recent application activity categories. Most users will of course use at least one of the basic applications, so filtering the remainder shouldn’t prove to be prohibitively time-consuming.


The E5 plan includes PowerBI Pro and Skype for Business PSTN calling features – applications that are not included in the cheaper E3 plan. For the moment, the Office 365 connector does not track these two applications, and so the information provided by Snow License Manager does not yet support E5 to E3 optimizations.


And lastly, users in Snow License Manager need to be linked to their Microsoft Office 365 user accounts to connect usage information to the correct user. I’ve written more about this in another post What is user linking for Office-365 and how to manually link users in SLM.


So now it’s time to dig into the product and see where you can optimize and harvest Office 365 subscriptions. As I mentioned, I’ve put together a how-to here:

If you have any additional questions, please ask one here on the Snow Globe or post a comment below.


Tom Sautelle – Product Owner Snow License Manager