Past Table Value Parameter to Reporting Services

Using Table-Valued Parameters With SQL Server Reporting Services

In my last post I talked about using table-valued parameters to pass a list of integer values to a stored procedure without resorting to using comma-delimited strings and parsing out each value into a TABLE variable. In this post I’ll extend the “Customer Transaction Summary” report example to see how we might leverage this same stored procedure from within an SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) report. I’ve worked with SSRS off and on for the past several years and have generally found it to be a very useful tool for building nice-looking reports for end users quickly and easily. That said, I’ve been frustrated by SSRS from time to time when seemingly simple things are difficult to accomplish or simply not supported at all. I thought that using table-valued parameters from within a SSRS report would be simple, but unfortunately I was wrong.

Customer Transaction Summary Example

Let’s take the “Customer Transaction Summary” report example from the last post and try to plug that same stored procedure into an SSRS report. Our report will have three parameters:
  1. Start Date – beginning of the date range for which the report will summarize customer transactions
  2. End Date – end of the date range for which the report will summarize customer transactions
  3. Customer Ids – One or more customer Ids representing the customers that will be included in the report
The simplest way to get started with this report will be to create a new dataset and point it at our Customer Transaction Summary report stored procedure (note that I’m using SSRS 2012 in the screenshots below, but there should be little to no difference with SSRS 2008):
When you initially create this dataset the SSRS designer will try to invoke the stored procedure to determine what the parameters and output fields are for you automatically. As part of this process the following dialog pops-up:
Obviously I can’t use this dialog to specify a value for the ‘@customerIds’ parameter since it is of the IntegerListTableType user-defined type that we created in the last post. Unfortunately this really throws the SSRS designer for a loop, and regardless of what combination of Data Type, Pass Null Value, or Parameter Value I used here, I kept getting this error dialog with the message, “Operand type clash: nvarchar is incompatible with IntegerListTableType“.
This error message makes some sense considering that the nvarchar type is indeed incompatible with the IntegerListTableType, but there’s little clue given as to how to remedy the situation. I don’t know for sure, but I think that behind-the-scenes the SSRS designer is trying to give the @customerIds parameter an nvarchar-typed SqlParameter which is causing the issue. When I first saw this error I figured that this might just be a limitation of the dataset designer and that I’d be able to work around the issue by manually defining the parameters. I know that there are some special steps that need to be taken when invoking a stored procedure with a table-valued parameter from ADO .NET, so I figured that I might be able to use some custom code embedded in the report  to create a SqlParameter instance with the needed properties and value to make this work, but the “Operand type clash” error message persisted.

The Text Query Approach

Just because we’re using a stored procedure to create the dataset for this report doesn’t mean that we can’t use the ‘Text’ Query Type option and construct an EXEC statement that will invoke the stored procedure. In order for this to work properly the EXEC statement will also need to declare and populate an IntegerListTableType variable to pass into the stored procedure. Before I go any further I want to make one point clear: this is a really ugly hack and it makes me cringe to do it. Simply put, I strongly feel that it should not be this difficult to use a table-valued parameter with SSRS. With that said, let’s take a look at what we’ll have to do to make this work.

Manually Define Parameters

First, we’ll need to manually define the parameters for report by right-clicking on the ‘Parameters’ folder in the ‘Report Data’ window. We’ll need to define the ‘@startDate’ and ‘@endDate’ as simple date parameters. We’ll also create a parameter called ‘@customerIds’ that will be a mutli-valued Integer parameter:
In the ‘Available Values’ tab we’ll point this parameter at a simple dataset that just returns the CustomerId and CustomerName of each row in the Customers table of the database or manually define a handful of Customer Id values to make available when the report runs.
Once we have these parameters properly defined we can take another crack at creating the dataset that will invoke the ‘rpt_CustomerTransactionSummary’ stored procedure. This time we’ll choose the ‘Text’ query type option and put the following into the ‘Query’ text area:
   1: exec('declare @customerIdList IntegerListTableType ' + @customerIdInserts + 
   2: ' EXEC rpt_CustomerTransactionSummary 
   3: @startDate=''' + @startDate + ''', 
   4: @endDate='''+ @endDate + ''', 
   5: @customerIds=@customerIdList')
By using the ‘Text’ query type we can enter any arbitrary SQL that we we want to and then use parameters and string concatenation to inject pieces of that query at run time. It can be a bit tricky to parse this out at first glance, but from the SSRS designer’s point of view this query defines three parameters:
  1. @customerIdInserts – This will be a Text parameter that we use to define INSERT statements that will populate the @customerIdList variable that is being declared in the SQL. This parameter won’t actually ever get passed into the stored procedure. I’ll go into how this will work in a bit.
  2. @startDate – This is a simple date parameter that will get passed through directly into the @startDate parameter of the stored procedure on line 3.
  3. @endDate – This is another simple data parameter that will get passed through into the @endDate parameter of the stored procedure on line 4.
At this point the dataset designer will be able to correctly parse the query and should even be able to detect the fields that the stored procedure will return without needing to specify any values for query when prompted to. Once the dataset has been correctly defined we’ll have a @customerIdInserts parameter listed in the ‘Parameters’ tab of the dataset designer. We need to define an expression for this parameter that will take the values selected by the user for the ‘@customerIds’ parameter that we defined earlier and convert them into INSERT statements that will populate the @customerIdList variable that we defined in our Text query. In order to do this we’ll need to add some custom code to our report using the ‘Report Properties’ dialog:
Any custom code defined in the Report Properties dialog gets embedded into the .rdl of the report itself and (unfortunately) must be written in VB .NET. Note that you can also add references to custom .NET assemblies (which could be written in any language), but that’s outside the scope of this post so we’ll stick with the “quick and dirty” VB .NET approach for now. Here’s the VB .NET code (note that any embedded code that you add here must be defined in a static/shared function, though you can define as many functions as you want):
   1: Public Shared Function BuildIntegerListInserts(ByVal variableName As String, ByVal paramValues As Object()) As String
   2:     Dim insertStatements As New System.Text.StringBuilder()
   3:     For Each paramValue As Object In paramValues
   4:         insertStatements.AppendLine(String.Format("INSERT {0} VALUES ({1})", variableName, paramValue))
   5:     Next
   6:     Return insertStatements.ToString()
   7: End Function
This method takes a variable name and an array of objects. We use an array of objects here because that is how SSRS will pass us the values that were selected by the user at run-time. The method uses a StringBuilder to construct INSERT statements that will insert each value from the object array into the provided variable name.
Once this method has been defined in the custom code for the report we can go back into the dataset designer’s Parameters tab and update the expression for the ‘@customerIdInserts’ parameter by clicking on the button with the “function” symbol that appears to the right of the parameter value. We’ll set the expression to:
   1: =Code.BuildIntegerListInserts("@customerIdList ", Parameters!customerIds.Value)
In order to invoke our custom code method we simply need to invoke “Code.” and pass in any needed parameters. The first parameter needs to match the name of the IntegerListTableType variable that we used in the EXEC statement of our query. The second parameter will come from the Value property of the ‘@customerIds’ parameter (this evaluates to an object array at run time).
Finally, we’ll need to edit the properties of the ‘@customerIdInserts’ parameter on the report to mark it as a nullable internal parameter so that users aren’t prompted to provide a value for it when running the report.

Limitations And Final Thoughts

When I first started looking into the text query approach described above I wondered if there might be an upper limit to the size of the string that can be used to run a report. Obviously, the size of the actual query could increase pretty dramatically if you have a parameter that has a lot of potential values or you need to support several different table-valued parameters in the same query. I tested the example Customer Transaction Summary report with 1000 selected customers without any issue, but your mileage may vary depending on how much data you might need to pass into your query.
If you think that the text query hack is a lot of work just to use a table-valued parameter, I agree! I think that it should be a lot easier than this to use a table-valued parameter from within SSRS, but so far I haven’t found a better way. It might be possible to create some custom .NET code that could build the EXEC statement for a given set of parameters automatically, but exploring that will have to wait for another post. For now, unless there’s a really compelling reason or requirement to use table-valued parameters from SSRS reports I would probably stick with the tried and true “join-multi-valued-parameter-to-CSV-and-split-in-the-query” approach for using mutli-valued parameters in a stored procedure.

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