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SSRS Cascading Parameters Refresh: Solved

April 23rd, 2011

There is a long-standing issue with cascading parameters in SSRS – when changing the selection of the “parent” parameter the default selection of the dependent parameter does not always get refreshed. This is closed as “By Design” by Microsoft in the corresponding Connect item:

https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/feedback/details/268032/default-does-not-get-refreshed-for-cascading-parameters

The reason given is that since the users may have changed the selection in the dependent parameter drop-down we do not want to overwrite their changed with the default values every time they select something else in the parent parameter. This is a valid reason, but in some cases it is actually desirable and expected for the defaults to change. Since the refresh behaviour cannot be controlled in SSRS the only way to deal with a requirement specifying a complete refresh was to tell the users it was not possible.

However, after playing a little bit around the various options I found a hack/workaround/solution which actually works and allows us to do a complete refresh – hence this post. The actual trick comes from the fact that the dependent parameter gets refreshed only when its values are invalidated by the selection in the first parameter. In example, if a user de-selects a value in the parent parameter and selects another value which prompts a complete change in the second (dependent) parameter, SSRS will actually apply the default selection by default. This got me thinking that if we can invalidate the dependent parameter every time a parameter changes we will enforce a complete refresh. An easy way to do this is to attach a value such as a GUID obtained with the NEWID() T-SQL function, or the output from GETDATE(). An old workaround I have provided in the Connect item was an idea based on GETDATE(). However, in this post I will show how we can use NEWID() with the same outcome.

Firstly, let’s assume we have the following tables in SQL Server:

Parameter (e.g. dimension) table pTable


Fact table fTable


p1k is for parameter 1 key, p1l for parameter 1 label

In preparation for creating our report we can create the following three stored procedures (script is attached in the end of the post):

There are a few things that may need clarification.

  • The first stored procedure is a standard procedure to retrieve the distinct values for the parent parameter from a typical dimension table;
  • The TvFMVParamSplit function splits strings in the format ‘a,b,c’ to a table containing a, b and c on each row. We need to use such a function to split multi-select parameter value strings which SSRS returns when dealing with multi-selectable parameters;
  • In the second stored procedure we attach a GUID to all parameter keys. Every time this stored procedure gets executed the GUIDs are different and the output from the stored procedure is different, as well. We use this to invalidate the available and default values for the dependent parameter;
  • When we use the key+guid strings in the third stored procedure we need to strip the GUID out of the string. We know that the output from NEWID() has LENgth of 36, so we REPLACE the last 36 characters in each selected value with an empty string, thus eliminating the redundant manually attached part and we are left with the key only;
  • The string which SSRS constructs for the multiple selections gets quite much longer than when passing ints – we get 36 extra characters per value. Therefore, this is less efficient and cumbersome than passing straight keys. It could be better to have a flag in SQL Server which we can toggle every execution to 0 or 1 instead of using a GUID as it would be shorter but would introduce a slight extra bit of complexity I avoided for the purposes of this post.

The overall goal is to cause a complete refresh of all values in the second parameter whenever its stored procedure is called by SSRS (after change in the parent parameter).

Now we are ready to use these datasets in SSRS:

  1. Create a new Data Source pointing to the database containing out tables and stored procedures;
  2. Create a Data Set p1 for the parent parameter;
  3. Create a @p1 report parameter (multi-select, text) with available values obtained from the usp_p1 stored procedure (p1k as Value, p1l as Label);
  4. Create a Data Set p2 for the dependent parameter, which accepts @p1 as a parameter;
  5. Create a @p2 report parameter (multi-select, text) with available and default values obtained from the usp_p2 procedure (p2k as Value, p2l as Label).

An interesting thing to note is that this setup will actually not quite work. If we just perform these 5 steps and test we will notice that the values for @p2 do not always get refreshed on change of @p1. Half by chance I made @p2 Internal. Then I added an extra @p3, which is then used on the report and did this the trick. Therefore, the actual steps required to complete the creation of our report are:

  1. Set the @p2 report parameter to be Internal;
  2. Create a @p3 report parameter (multi-select, text), with Available Values Value expression of =Parameters!p2.Value and Label of =Parameters!p2.Label. The Default Values should be =Parameters!p2.Value;

  1. Create a Data Set main from the usp_main stored procedure and make sure that its parameter is populated by @p3, not @p2;
  2. Add a table in the report with two columns, which show p2l and amt from the main data set.

Now if we deploy (also in the Preview window) we can test the outcome by changing selections of p1. Since there are quite a few fiddly steps involved in getting this to work I am attaching the working rdl (SQL Server 2008 R2) and a T-SQL script (SQL 2008) which creates the tables, populates them with data and creates the stored procedures (in Adventure Works) required for this workaround to work as described here. Please note that the same should work in SSRS 2005 but I have not tested it in that environment. Please add a comment to this post if you test it and it indeed works.

SSRS ,