written by
5000fish Team

Understanding Parameters to Create Dynamic Reports (BI Reporting Techniques)

BI Problems and Solutions 9 min read
Yurbi - Dynamic Reports and Dashboards

Parameters rule the world, at least in reporting.

In today's data-driven world, static reports just don't cut it. You need reports that can adapt, bend, and cater to specific needs and goals.

Enter the magic of parameters. Parameters transform reports from rigid presentations into interactive experiences, empowering users to uncover insights and make informed decisions.

This article dives deep into the world of parameter-driven reports. We'll explore the benefits of using parameters to create dynamic reports and address some essential factors to keep in mind when using them.

What Are Parameters?

Parameters are variables used in dynamic reports to control the content and presentation. They act as placeholders for values that can be changed by the user or dynamically populated based on certain conditions, which allows for a high degree of interactivity and flexibility.

Why Use Parameters to Create Dynamic Reports?

There are several advantages to using parameters in dynamic reports for both report creators and users. Here's a breakdown of the key benefits:

Customization in Parameters

Parameters allow users to choose what data they want to see. They could do this by filtering by date range, region, product category, or any other relevant field.

Exploration and Analysis

By interacting with parameters, users can explore the data from different angles and gain deeper insights. This ability fosters self-service reporting and empowers users to answer their own questions without relying on IT or report developers.

Single Report for Multiple Scenarios

With parameters, you can create a single dynamic report that can be used for various situations. A dynamic report eliminates the need for multiple static reports for different filters or criteria.

Reduced Maintenance for Parameters

Since you're not managing numerous static reports, updates to the underlying data source or report logic only need to be made in one place. This saves time and effort in maintaining reports.

Dynamic Updates

Parameters allow reports to adapt to changing data sets or user requirements. Users can incorporate new data without modifying the report structure, and parameter options can be adjusted as needed.

What-If Analysis

Specific parameters can be used to simulate different scenarios and see how the data would change. This option is helpful for business planning and forecasting.

How to Define Parameter Values

There are two main ways to define parameter values in dynamic reports: Predefined values and user input. Here’s a breakdown of each option:

Predefined Values in Parameters

With this option, you, as the report creator, will establish a list of values users can choose from when running the report. These values can come from two sources:

  • Static Lists: You can define a fixed set of values, like pre-determined regions, departments, or product categories. This ensures consistency and simplifies user selection.
  • External Data Source: The values can be dynamically populated from another data source, such as a database table. This is useful when the options need to be up-to-date or reflect changes in the underlying data.

Using predefined values is ideal for standard filters or situations where consistency is important.

User Input for Parameters

With this approach, the report will prompt you to enter values directly when it runs. This provides the most granular control over the data displayed, including the following:

  • Text Fields: Users can type in specific values, like dates, names, or keywords.
  • Selection Boxes: Users can choose from a broader range of pre-defined values displayed in a dropdown menu.
  • Ranges: Users can define a range of values, such as a date range, for filtering data.

User input is more suitable for situations where you need a high degree of control or want to explore specific data points in more detail.

Features to Look for When Using Parameters to Make Dynamic Reports

When you use parameters to create dynamic reports, there are several factors to remember and ways to incorporate them. Here are some of the most useful ones:

  • The ability to set dates, numeric, and character-based fields as a parameter
  • The ability to create more complex logic for parameters by using AND and OR conditions to combine the data filter
  • The option for users to select parameters that fit a specific use case, for example, EQUAL (choose only 1), Checklist (select multiple), and Wildcard-type selection to pull data that matches a string.
  • The option for users to interact with dates naturally, selecting a single date, between a date range, or dynamic slices of time such as This Month, Last Month, Year to Date, Last Year, etc.
  • The ability to control a list of values a user can see based on security constraints (e.g., limiting them to department values)

You should also consider some more complex factors, including these

Ability to Present Values in Understandable Ways

Look for the ability to present values more understandably, especially if the values are cryptic and not easily understandable by users (such as IDs like 1005, 1006, etc.). This option presents users with a list of values they understand for display, but the report also dynamically passes the proper ideas for the lookup value to the data source.

Ability to Adjust Default Values for Parameters

Users should be able to adjust default values as needed (such as providing an option to default to the top value in a selection list).

For example, say there’s an option to default to the top value in a selection list representing the current month. That way, the report always initially loads with the current month, but the user can also click to switch to a prior month in the list if needed.

Ability to Connect Parameters

Say you had a car inventory and selected the option to see blue cars. If you then selected the car model option, you would only see models available in blue. This is an example of connected parameters and how they can help you sort through data more efficiently.

Options Beyond Report Execution for Parameters

You should be able to use parameters in more than just report execution. For example, they should be able to be used when scheduling a report for email distribution.

Option to Set Parameters on a User’s Behalf

You should also look for the option to set parameters on a user’s behalf based on the properties of their user profile (email address, company name, department, location, agent ID, etc.). With this option, the report can dynamically use profile values as parameters without the user knowing (for security purposes, for example, or increased ease of use).

Yurbi: Dynamic Reports for Everyone, from Analysts to End-Users for Parameters

Yurbi was built with ad-hoc reporting, and thus paramters passing in mind. But in addition to making it flexble for users to pass paramters, we also wanted to ensure those important security related paramters (like a tenant ID to restrict users to only seeing their tenant’s information) was also maintained.

Here are a few of the areas where Yurbi support passing of static or dynamic parameters.

Report Criteria

This is the bread and butter for paramter passing, defining which fields should be dynamic (or hardcoded) at the point of creating a report.

On any field in a report, Yurbi allows the builder to add criteria and Yurbi intelligently provides paramter options based on the data type of the field. For dates, you can do a between date range prompt or select pre-defined date slices like today, yesterday, this month, etc. Text and numeric fields also have their own special logic.

Parameters lists can be dynamically pulled from the data source (based on security rules) or you can supply a pre-created list of options users can choose for those use cases where you want to display only certain items.

Dashboard Filters

We like to think Dashoard Filters are the big brother to report criteria. While adding in paramters at the report layer only apply to that single report, when you add multiple reports to a dashboard and use dashboard filters, the filters can be applied to all reports simulataneously.

The same level of power you have at the report level, to have specific paramter lists based on data type, to keep things secure based on security rules, and to choose a specific parameter list if desired is also supported in the Dashboard Filter area.

Dashboard Filters also allow you to implement “Smart Filters” which allow you to daisy-chain filters so that the paramters shown in the list for selection are restricted dynamically based on the prior filter selections. Imagine looking at cars of a specific brand and then seeing a list of only the colors that applies to the prior selected brand. While we have a similar option at the report level called “Smart Prompts” the dashboard filters are more powerful.

Stored Procedure Paramters

Users of stored procedures are well adapted to the concepts of paramter passing. Stored procedures were built to accept paramters that drive the results of the database queries. Yurbi supports stored procedures and is able to pull details from the stored procedure on the data type to offer the same logic driven procedures as mentioned in above sections.

One common thing you see in developer created stored procedures, they quite typically take cryptic IDs and numeric values. Imagine that instead of seeing a status of Open, Closed, or Pending, the stored procedure may expect 0,1, or 2 passed in. With Yurbi you have the ability to create a report containing a display value and a lookup value, so in our reports and dashboards you can display a user-friendly label to users and on the backend, we pass that numeric value to the stored procedure.

Profile and Company Dyamic Parameters

Sometimes for security reasons (or just ease of use) you don’t want users to select a paramter but you want to pass it in dynamically based on who the user is. In older BI tools, this required creating multiple reports, copies of each other, with nothing but tha value of the paramter changed. This could generate 100s of the same report.

In Yurbi, we have the concept of data tags. Think of them as variables, where you can define any data, numbers, text, strings of text, and then reference them in all the areas we mentioned above. Data tags can be added in the criteria of report, as part of dashboard filters, to pass into stored procedures, and to dynamically pass into security rules for data restrictions. They can also be used in the header/footer of individual reports so when exported user or tenant specific data is displayed in the header/footer.

Embedded Parameters

Lastly, one of the most powerful use cases in Yurbi is the embedding of reports and dashboards into your own web applications. Yurbi provides a warpper html file that makes the process easy. And if you’ve included report prompts we mentioned below, you can dynamically pass in those paramters via the embed URL string.

This allows you to strategically embed the same report in multiple locations and have the correct data displayed. Or to build dynamic elements in your own application which can feed the paramters to the Yurbi embed object to display the right data.

Parameters Rule The World (at least in reporting)

Understanding parameters unlocks the true potential of BI reporting... but the technical complexity involved can be a major hurdle. Yurbi bridges that gap, providing accessible tools to create dynamic, interactive reports without requiring coding expertise.

Yurbi's intuitive, visual interface allows you to easily add parameters that filter, adjust, and personalize your reports on the fly. This empowers both non-technical users, who can explore data insights tailored to their needs, and experienced analysts, who can streamline repetitive tweaking and focus on high-value analytical models.

Yurbi: Your key to data-driven decisions.

Yurbi believes in data democratization – data shouldn't just be the domain of programmers. By simplifying the process of creating dynamic reports, Yurbi helps build a data-driven culture where insights are accessible throughout your company. This translates into better decision-making at every level.

Want to see how Yurbi empowers both analysts and end-users? Book a free live demo session or schedule a personalized meeting with our team!

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