SCCM User Collections by Job Title, etc.

For some of you this is going to be a no-brainer, but for some reason I’ve been getting more and more questions about how to make User Collections in SCCM based on query rules using AD account properties, like:

  • Job Title
  • Department Name
  • Division
  • City
  • Description

While it’s still fine to use other criteria for Collection membership rules, such as OU path, Security Group names, and so on, it’s always nice to know you have even more options available.

For one customer, they found it unnecessary to add people to security groups when they already have a consistently maintained job “title” for each user account in Active Directory.  When they want to deploy software to employees by their title, why not do that directly, instead of populating a group and adding more work?  In some cases, a group is necessary for other purposes, so it’s a fact of life.  But for this customer, and others like them, they don’t rely on security groups for targeting configuration rules or software deployments.

Best of all, this is really easy (I mean REALLY, REALLY, REEEEEEEEAAALLY easy) to do.

Step 1 – Adjust the Discovery Settings

By default, SCCM collects a fairly good subset of AD account attributes for user and computer objects in a given AD forest/domain.

  • name
  • distinguishedName
  • dnsHostName
  • mail
  • objectGUID
  • objectSID
  • primaryGroupID
  • sAMAccountName
  • userAccountControl
  • userPrincipalName
  • whenCreated

The best thing about SCCM is that it’s flexible.  You can select other attributes to gather from the environment during each discovery cycle.  Just be aware that when you change Discovery settings, it does have some impact on the environment, even if negligible.

For example, when you add more settings to collect, such as discovery information, hardware and software inventory, it means more data being transmitted across the network, and more data being stored in the SCCM SQL database tables.  The impact of a discovery rule change is typically short-lived.  From then on, only delta changes are collected, and network overhead is back to minimal.

For this example, lets add some attributes for User discovery:

  1. In the SCCM admin console, select Administration, and then expand Hierarchy Configuration / Discovery Methods.
  2. Open “Active Directory User Discovery” (or right-click / Properties)
  3. Select the “Active Directory Attributes” tab
  4. Press CTRL and select “department“, “division“, “employeeID” and “title“, then click “Add >>” to move them into the Selected Attributes list.
  5. Click OK


At this point, you can wait for the next Discovery cycle to run, or force it (get your fully-charged snake prod ready, for when the Network folks come storming in to yell at you for a small spike in network traffic, “caused by your evil SCCM tool thing!!”)  Just kidding.  If they freak over this small blip, offer them some marijuana-infused cookies.  Works every time.

Step 2 – Create a Collection

  1. Select Assets and Compliance
  2. Select User Collections (if you have folders beneath this, expand the appropriate folder, or create a new folder, whatever floats your boat)
  3. Create a new User Collection (right-click or select from ribbon menu)
  4. For this example, I’m going to make a User Collection to identify Sales Managers, because they’re fun to mess with.  We can deploy all sorts of painful things to them as reward for the joy they bestow upon their technical brethren.  So I will name this “Users – Title – Sales Managers”
  5. For Limiting Collection, you can use “All Users”, and click Next
  6. On the Membership Rules panel, check both “Use incremental updates for this collection” and “Schedule a full update on this collection”, because the query-based membership could change as Sales Managers are assassinated by angry coworkers and replaced by more of them stamped from the assembly line.  Just kidding.  But still, check both options.
  7. Click “Add Rule” / “Query Rule
  8. Name the rule “1” (that’s right, a number one.  For the rank of those who annoy us most)
  9. Click “Edit Query Statement…”
  10. On the General tab, check the option “Omit duplicate rows (select distinct)” (which should be selected by default, but whatever, I’m too lazy to upload this tiny request to User Voice).
  11. Select the “Criteria” tab.
  12. Click the weird little asterisk button (new query)
  13. On the Criterion Properties form, click “Select”.  On the Select Attribute popup, select Attribute Class “User Resource”, and select Attribute “title”.  Then click OK.
  14. Back on the Criterion Properties form, below the Value box, select the Value… button and choose the title you wish to filter on, such as (equal to) “Sales Manager” or (is like) “Sales%”
  15. Click OK and OK again to complete the process of creating the new Collection.

Now, you (hopefully) have a collection of users with a specific job title (or department, division, location value, employeeID sequence, etc.) which can be used to drive reports, and target software deployments.


Because everything in life comes with conditions, this does as well.  First off, it depends on a properly-managed and maintained Active Directory environment.  Whether that is the result of manual effort, scripting, or third-party applications, it doesn’t matter as long as the data is reliable enough to based queries on.  If the data exists in AD, and SCCM discovery can find it, you can leverage it for almost anything.

How to Unintentionally Reimage Every Computer in your Company using SCCM


Step 1 – Be a complete Idiot

Step 2 – Do not do any research or seek training of any kind.  In fact, ignore every bit of advice, guidance, or recommendation by any experienced human being

Step 3 – Enable IP Helpers on every Router – or – place every computer in the same IP subnet as the PXE-enabled DP server

Step 4 – Do not use a password on any of your Task Sequences

Step 5 – Deploy the Task Sequence to the All Systems collection and set the Deployment availability to Required *AND* set “Configuration Manager Clients, media and PXE”

Step 6 – Make sure EVERY machine is set to boot from the Network by default

Step 7 – Reboot EVERY computer

Step 8 – Press F12 on EVERY computer as it reboots (after contacting the PXE host of course)

Step 9 – Tell everyone you know that SCCM “accidentally” reimaged all your computers

Step 10 – Run for public office, where these skills are valued most


5 SCCM Myth Corrections

In keeping with the popular (and completely stupid) trend of “5 this…” and “10 that…” memes…


Myth 1 – Discovery Settings

Contrary to what you may hear (I hear it a lot, unfortunately) SCCM discovery settings do not modify the computers in your environment.  They simply allow SCCM to shine a flashlight on what’s in the environment.  Think of it like a restaurant menu.  The waiter hands it to you to look over and see what you’d like.  SCCM is the waiter. It’s not cooking anything until you place your order.  Discovery doesn’t install anything, or modify configuration settings, restart, etc.  The only situation when it could make changes to discovered computers would be having automatic client push installation enabled (in most cases you shouldn’t)

Myth 2 – Script Wrapping is not “Packaging”

“Packaging”, technically, is the process of creating the ORIGINAL installation payload (.exe, .msi, .whatever).  When you create a new package from an existing package, that’s technically called “repackaging”.  Executing a package with additional (optional) command line switches is simply called “using the package”.  Putting the package and switches into a script file is called “script wrapping”.  Entering the package name, with optional switches, into the SCCM console is called “doing your job”.

Myth 3 – “Packaging” is NOT “Repackaging”

When Microsoft builds the setup.exe for something like Office or Visual Studio Code, that’s called “Packaging”.  When you take that package, initiate a snapshot monitoring session on a reference computer using Flexera AdminStudio Repackager*, run the package installer, make some system changes, add stuff, remove stuff, laugh at stuff, yell at stuff, capture the changes, create a project, clean it up, bitch and moan a lot, drink some coffee, crank out the package solution, compile that into an .MSI or .EXE, copy it over to another folder location, go outside and scream the anger and frustration out of your soul, throw your cold, empty coffee up at the nearest hard surface, then THAT is called “repackaging”.

Real, honest, true, repackaging sucks.  It’s not a fun job.  It’s like rebuilding a transmission to a typical auto mechanic, or removing impacted feces from a cow for a veterinarian.  Un-fun.  Last resort.  The kind of thing that makes you internalize a lot of anger and frustration at how the situation COULD have been avoided, had someone taken the time to do something differently at an earlier stage.  But NOooooooooo… it then becomes YOUR problem to deal with.  Anyhow, hourly billing offers some solace.

Myth 4 – SCCM will NOT automatically reimage all your computers just because you enable PXE with OSD

I’m not even going to waste time on this one.  If you don’t believe me, you’re an idiot, but don’t be offended.  Lots of people are idiots.  Most of them write blogs like this one.  Hey, wait a minute!?

Myth 5 – MDT and SCCM Can coexist.  SCCM and WSUS can coexist

I don’t know where it started, or who started it, but whoever said SCCM cannot coexist in the same environment with separate instances of MDT or WSUS was wrong.  It can.  It does.  In some cases, it’s even recommended.  Like anything else in IT, it comes down to having a solid technical and business case for doing it.


What Would it Take to Move from SCCM to Intune?


Every week I’m on a conference call with customers who are using, or interested in using, SCCM and Intune/EMS.  Every single conversation finds its way into the following questions:

  1. “Should I use Intune to manage Windows 10 Surface Pro and Dell/HP laptops outside the network?”
  2. “Should I integrate SCCM and Intune?”
  3. “Can I just move all my SCCM infrastructure into Azure?”

Good questions.  Unfortunately, the answers aren’t yet fully-baked.  The answer to each is “it depends”.

But during one call in particular, we had a bunch of crusty old SCCM engineers discussing the past, present and future of the product.  This wound up in a discussion about “what would it take?” …to switch to Intune as the primary management interface, even for on-prem devices.  The gist of this was not about “eventually” or long-term, but rather, what could be dropped in our lap sooner, and make us say “oh, snap! time to reconsider!”

Anyhow, we came up with the following:

1 – Hybrid Deployments

The ability to configure application deployments in a cloud console, while directing clients to fetch the content from on-prem sources.  The reverse of cloud DPs, if you will.  The application configuration resides in the cloud, and the source content, and deployment content, are hosted on-prem.

This could be handled with the Intune client being equipped to poke for the on-prem location as a means to determine on/off prem status.  If on-prem, download the content from the on-prem DP.  Otherwise, follow the configuration (wait, or download from another source).  The goal would be to support cloud clients, mobile clients and on-prem clients, where each could pull content based on proximity, performance and least cost.

This would also span out to OSD as well.  If the WIM files, driver packages, and other bits were available from an on-prem source (via PXE/WinPE) it could work. Maybe it would require something like iPXE Anywhere, or maybe not.

2 – Expanded Deployment Types

Intune would need to be able to deploy more flexible types of instructions.  Such as EXE files with additional parameters (aka “switches”), MSI’s with MST transforms.  PowerShell scripts would be nice too.

3 – Full Inventory

This is actually two parts combined.  The first being a split inventory detection that pulls a complete (e.g. SCCM-style) WMI inventory data set from a full Windows client, but does the status quo for other clients.  The second part being a means for leveraging that extended inventory to save time/effort in other areas (targeting policies, apps, etc.)

And speaking of inventory, is there a CIM-like equivalent for mobile platforms like iOS, Android, etc.?


Granted, this is *not* enough for SCCM to throw in the towel and surrender.  But these seem to be the most-used features in SCCM which are not replaceable with Intune, yet.

If this is true, or “accurate”, then it doesn’t seem like such a tall hill to climb.  We were not entirely sober at the time, so it’s quite possible we overlooked something here.  Maybe something embarrassingly obvious, but hey.

Thoughts?  Substance or Garbage?  Let me know.


Dear Code Monkeys…

Whilst thou art writeth thy codeth, pleaseth consider thy following ruleseth….

(Pardon the CAPS lock screaming)


In addition to my usual rants about [no local admin rights], [silent installers] and [consistent tools and features], I’d like to mention something about the poor, unsung heroes of the IT world:  LOGS

That’s right: LOGS.  Just like Ren and Stimpy used to sing about.  And while you can play with both kinds of logs, these logs aren’t nearly as happy to be around.


Some suggestions for logging features for your products:

  1. Make some logs when needed.  If not by default, at least provide an option to turn them on.  Verbosity control would be nice too.
  2. If you can leverage the Windows event logs, that helps other systems that do forwarding and monitoring, etc.
  3. Make your logs with a consistent format.
  4. Provide searchable / filter-able logs

Example: Crappy Log

“module 440981230934810123oi defaulted on zmerw234::init() invocation to the fist:in-face-foot-up-ass() module 341234091230909 m-alloc().p-init{}::void([])”, “2017030312331409134013019238019238”

Example: Happy Log

“A crappy little function in module (foot-up-ass) was unable to initialize upon request. Additional details are saved to verbose.log in the logs folder”,”minimal”, “warning”, “main-init”, “03/03/2017, 12:33 AM GMT”

The above might map to columns: description, userimpact, category, source, eventtime (just a suggestion)

Basically, structure it like it would belong in a spreadsheet or a database table row.  Break out fields/columns so it allows for sorting, filtering, grouping without requiring wildcard/pattern-matching as the only means.