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Exchange Hierarchical Address Books assign order to recipients

Use HAB and EMS commands to appoint recipients with a certain hierarchical status in your address book.

When your address book is in random order, the Hierarchical Address Book (HAB) allows end users to search for recipients by assigned numerical or alphabetical order.

The HAB allows users to view recipients in a hierarchical, somewhat customizable format. This view appears in Outlook 2010 or later, and is an addition to the default Global Address List that will display the entire address list alphabetically. Configuring a HAB in Exchange 2013 requires specific Exchange Management Shell (EMS) commands and parameters, so Exchange administrators should understand these commands and their associated parameters beforehand.

To plan HAB deployment, learn how they are constructed:

  • HABs are based on nested distribution groups that represent the organization's hierarchy -- forming the hierarchy tiers;
  • Decide whether or not to store distribution groups in a separate Organizational Unit (OU);
  • Users are members of the relevant distribution group to represent their place in the hierarchy; and
  • Additional configuration, based on the Seniority Index, is possible on individual groups or users to influence their position within the overall hierarchy.

Configuring Hierarchical Address Books

Configuring the HAB is straightforward. First, identify or create the OU that will contain the HAB distribution groups. Hierarchy is achieved through nested distribution group membership, so only one OU is required.

Next, create the distribution groups that form the HAB inside the OU. Since the distribution group name is displayed in the HAB when viewed in Outlook, spend time developing the names for each distribution group and planning the hierarchy to represent the organization layout. You can create all required distribution groups simultaneously in the OU.

One of the distribution groups will form the root of the Hierarchical Address Book, and will therefore be its foundation. For example, Fabrikam, a fictional Microsoft company, might configure a HAB root distribution group based on its organization name, such as "Fabrikam." The Exchange Management Shell command Set-OrganizationConfig is used with the –HierarchicalAddressBookRoot parameter to indicate which distribution group is the root of the address book.

Since the distribution group name is displayed in the HAB when viewed in Outlook, spend time developing the names for each distribution group and planning the hierarchy to represent the organization layout.

The Set-OrganizationConfig –HierarchicalAddressBookRoot Fabrikam command sets "Fabrikam" as the Hierarchical Address Book root.

All distribution groups, including the root distribution group, have additional configuration task requirements:

  • Each group must be configured as a hierarchical group to differentiate it from a normal group. Use the Set-Group command with the –IsHierarchicalGroup parameter set to a value of $true. Do not confuse it with the Set-DistributionGroup command.
  • Child distribution groups become members of the parent distribution group immediately above them in the hierarchy with Add-DistributionGroupMember. For example, suppose Fabrikam has a sales department. The "Sales" distribution group is second tier in terms of the hierarchy and is therefore a member of the "Fabrikam" root distribution group. Similarly, any third tier groups become members of the second tier groups, and so on. The result is a group membership configuration that maps to the overall organization hierarchy.
  • User distribution group membership is populated so that users appear in the correct distribution group. To do so, use the Add-DistributionGroupMember command.
  • Finally, configure the optional SeniorityIndex parameter for either the distribution groups or the users in those groups. This parameter alters the order in which objects are represented.

Seniority Index

If Fabrikam configures its Hierarchical Address Book with a root distribution group of "Fabrikam" and four second tier groups called Sales, Services, Marketing and Research, then these groups by default will display in ascending alphabetical order: Marketing, Research, then Sales and Services.

Interested in HABs?

Not all organizations require an address book based on a hierarchy, so the HAB may not be suitable for some organizations. If you decide to investigate Hierarchical Address Books, examine them in a lab environment to better understand how they work and how it will display once configured.

The SeniorityIndex parameter of a group can be configured with a numerical value to influence the display order of the group. The key principle is the higher the value, the higher up in the HAB each group displays. For example, to configure Fabrikam's Services group to appear at the top of the HAB, give it a higher SeniorityIndex value. Since all groups by default have a SeniorityIndex value set to null, this can be any positive integer.

Attach the SeniorityIndex configuration with the Set-Group command and -SeniorityIndex parameter. The same SeniorityIndex parameter can be used with the Set-User command to alter the HAB display order for user accounts.

About the author:
Neil Hobson is a U.K.-based Microsoft consultant with a background in the design, implementation and support of infrastructure systems covering Active Directory, Windows Server, Exchange and Lync. He is currently focused on Office 365 in technologies such as Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, Yammer and Office ProPlus. He is also focused on the associated areas of identity, networking, migration and service integration. Hobson is a member of the Chartered Institute for IT (MBCS) and was also a Microsoft MVP for Exchange Server from 2003 to 2010.

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