Summit 7 Team Blogs

License usage reporting in Office 365: part 1

(This is part 1 of a series; if you have questions or want to see specific licensing or reporting topics covered here, drop me a line: [email protected].)

Office 365 requires that every user have a license. (Normal humans might call this a subscription, but that word has a specific meaning to Microsoft: it means you bought the consumer or home version of Office 365). You get these licenses by signing up for a specific Office 365 plan (say, Office 365 Enterprise E3) and then buying licenses in that plan. There are a lot of complexities around mixing and matching different license types within a plan that I’m not going to get into because I hate talking about licensing.

Anyway, users need licenses. Which licenses your users have access to is determined by what plan you buy into and what, if any, additional service licenses you buy. To what you’ve got, open up the Office 365 management portal and go to the Billing item in the left-hand nav bar. The plans your tenant has access to are listed under “Subscriptions” (yeah, I know, I just said they weren’t called that) and the specific licenses you have access to are shown under “Licenses.” You assign these licenses to users either through the Office 365 portal (below is a picture of  what the Assign License page looks like for my Summit 7 user account) or by using a variety of bulk licensing scripts that you can find on the Internet (for example, here).


One common question I get from customers is “what licenses do I have assigned?” There are several ways to get this data, depending on what you actually want to know:

  • You can check an individual user’s license assignment by looking at their properties in the Users section of the portal, which is helpful if you want to know whether a particular user is enabled for a given service or not.
  • You can get a high-level report of how many licenses you’re using from the “Licensing vs Active Usage” report, available from the Reports tab. It’s a simple bar graph that shows the number of licenses you’ve bought for each feature in your plans versus the number of licenses that are assigned. (Note that there’s one very important feature that isn’t shown here; more on that in a minute).
  • You can run a script like this one to pull the license data using PowerShell, put it into an intermediate format (usually CSV), and then display it, often in Excel. This is a very flexible approach, but it presumes that you’re comfortable with PowerShell (and, often, with debugging, since most of these scripts are thrown together and don’t have a lot in the way of documentation or error handling).
  • You can invest in a commercial reporting tool such as Cogmotive Reports.

(I didn’t mention the Office 365 Reporting web service because it essentially just exposes the report data that you see in the Reports tab, and it requires you to write your own code. It’s great for pulling O365 data into your own portal or dashboard solution though).

Who’s using Office 365 Pro Plus?

It’s easy to see how many Exchange mailboxes or Lync users you have using the existing reports in the Office 365 portal. It’s harder if you want to see how many users have installed and activated Office 365 Pro Plus. This can be an important deployment metric. Unfortunately, the “Licensing vs Active Users” report doesn’t include it! This is a little irritating; after all, the service has this data, and you can get it using Get-MsolUser: you’ll want to look for a ServicePlan named OFFICESUBSCRIPTION with a ProvisioningStatus of SUCCESS (see infamous PowerShell dude Mike Pfeiffer’s excellent article for more on how to get this data).

No matter how you get this data, it will still only tell you which users have been authorized to install Pro Plus; it won’t tell you which specific users have actually installed and activated Pro Plus. Microsoft often ties incentives for partners and customers to the percentage of seats that deploy a specified feature set by a given date, so if you’re thinking of accepting one of these incentives and it’s tied to Office 365 Pro Plus deployment, keep in mind that you might have a difficult time figuring out how many users have actually activated the software.

The unanswerable question

Why would you have a hard time? It turns out that there’s another very good Pro Plus licensing question that I’ve had from multiple customers: “which users have installed how many of their Pro Plus licenses?” Office 365 plans that include Office Pro Plus rights allow users to install Pro Plus on up to five devices, so the service obviously tracks how many installs each individual user has. Any user can log in to their Office 365 tenant, click the gear icon, and view their current installs on the Software tab. However, Microsoft doesn’t expose that information to tenant administrators so there is no convenient way for you to see a report that says “you have X Pro Plus users, and Y of them have activated at least one install” or “The following users have installed all 5 of their licensed Pro Plus installations.” This seems like it’s by design, and I don’t know of any plans to change it, but it would be useful data in some circumstances so I’m hopeful that they will add it in the future.

Coming up in part 2

Another really common question I see has to do not with reporting but with auditing: how do you know who made changes to your licensing or license assignments? There’s a simple and non-obvious answer that I’ll share in the next part (credit goes to my fellow MVP Mike Crowley for turning me on to it). Until then, your homework is to poke around in the Reports tab of the Office 365 admin portal and see if there are any reports in there that might be useful to you—there’s a ton of stuff in there to play with.

About Paul Robichaux