Office 365 Lync displays wrong name

Recently we have come across an interesting bug in Office 365. In the scenario where you use ADFS to authenticate your Office 365 users and some of the users have multiple email address aliases assigned using adsiedit.msc, Lync might display a wrong name.

For example, user’s name is Walter and his primary email address is (not a real email address). Imagine that Walter’s colleague Jesse is leaving the company and they need Walter to take over Jesse’s clients and make sure that all emails that addressed to Jesse are now sent to Walter. At the same time, you don’t want to keep Jesse’s mailbox active because Office 365 charges you per mailbox and that would be a waste of money. So, you archive Jesse’s existing mailbox and add an alias to Walter’s mailbox. And, because you use ADFS, you have to add aliases using adsiedit.msc instead going through Office 365 management portal. Make sense, right? Well, this is where it starts being interesting and very-very confusing. Now, when Walter logs into Lync some of the users will see Jesse’s name show up in their Lync client instead of Walter. Weird, isn’t it?

What appears to be happening is that Lync Address Book Service (ABSConfig) queries proxyAddress attribute in user properties and uses whatever entry query returns first. Because proxyAddress field stores data in alphabetical order, in Walter’s user attributes the name “Jesse” entry comes before “Walter.” That’s why we see the wrong name displayed. It’s that simple.

Anyways, if this was an on-premise Lync server then there at least couple of fixes for this problem. Both fixes have to do with making changes on the server side. But this is Office 365, and we do not have access to the server-side. What are those of us living in the cloud supposed to do?! As far as I know, there is no fix, but there is a workaround. Instead of creating email address aliases using adsiedit.msc, you can:

  1. Create a distribution list in Office 365 management portal. Make sure to allow external senders send emails to this distribution list, so that emails don’t bounce back.
  2. Assign any email address aliases to that distribution list right from Office 365 management portal. For example, or
  3. Add an intended recipient(s) to the distribution list. For example, Now, when people send email to Jesse every email will be sent to Walter’s mailbox and everyone will see Walter as Walter when he signs into Lync. It’s a win-win.
  4. (Optional) Hide distribution list from Address Book, so your people don’t get confused when they search internal Global Address Book.

Well, it’s not exactly a fix, it’s a workaround and it will do for now. I do hope though that Microsoft will fix this bug in Office 365. Sometime in the next 20 minutes would be great. ;)