If you're looking for a list of the benefits of upgrading to the latest version of AD Connect, please see my blog on that topic here: Why upgrade DirSync to Azure AD Connect. One of those great new features is the ability to synchronize directory extension attributes or even custom attributes from an on premise Active Directory environment to Azure AD within Office 365. This post is about some of the limitations still in place around custom attributes, and some suggestions on how to deal with them once they've been synchronized.
We run across cases where clients have customized the on premise AD schema to introduce new custom attributes. This is often due to some specialized business process or line of business application that needs to populate data for each individual user. Perhaps you have an HR app needs to populate an employee ID or some level of manager needs to be stored for each user so that other apps can make use of it. Personally, I prefer to use the built in AD extension attributes (extensionAttribute1, extensionAttribute2, ...extensionAttribute15) for this purpose because that's what they're there for, but some environments choose to create custom attributes. In many cases, when a client chooses to migrate to Office 365, these custom attributes and business processes have been in place for years, and changing those internal processes to use different, built-in attributes simply isn't practical. In addition, often they want a workflow in SharePoint Online or an Office 365 workload to make use of them.
There are 3 high-level steps we can use to accomplish this:
- Configure AD Connect to Synchronize Custom Attributes
- Retrieve Attributes in Office 365 Using PowerShell
- Customize AD Connect Synchronization Rules
Step 1 - Configure AD Connect to Synchronize Custom AttributesFirst, we need to upgrade to AD Connect and properly configure it to synchronize our custom attributes to Office 365.
1. You start by launching the AD Connect configuration wizard on your synchronization server. There should be an icon on the desktop of the server where AD Connect was installed.
4. Select the on premise domain for which you want to refresh the schema, and click Next.
5. Click Configure to update the connector and cached schema which is responsible for synchronizing the selected on premise AD domain to Azure AD. If you wish to start a fresh sync once this process is done then leave the 'Start the synchronization process when the configuration completes' checkbox checked. This may not be needed at this point since we're just refreshing the schema cache in our local AD connect so you can un-check the checkbox if you wish.
Part 2 in this series can be found here: Step 2 - Retrieve Attributes in Office 365 Using PowerShell.