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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dashboard Navigation Tips

Some common designs for Dashboard navigation include:

  1. Spreading content across Dashboard pages and letting the user navigate to each page
  2. Linking Dashboards to specific reports
  3. Linking Dashboard pages to other Dashboard pages (sometimes to hidden pages in the same Dashboard)
These are just some of the options, but when deciding which is best, there are a few things to consider. First off, I prefer option 2 (linking Dashboards to Reports) as opposed to Option 3 (linking Dashboards to Dashboards), simply because OBIEE will automatically create a "Return" link on the target Report, whereas no such link will appear on a target Dashboard. This link allows the user to navigate back to the original Dashboard with all of the prompts set (i.e. the original source page contains the user's settings, not the defaults). I am not aware of any easy way to achieve this same return navigation for a target Dashboard. Of course the user could press the browser's back button to return to the original Dashboard, but this method seems to have unpredictable and sometimes incomplete results (for example, in some IE browsers users have experienced issues when using the back button whereby charts do not display or other data "freezes", so the back button is definitely not the preferred method).

Either way, when implementing option 2 or 3, I often use Navigation Targets (these are set under Column Heading Interaction or Value Interaction in the Column Properties). Navigation Targets are useful because they allow you to link from a source Dashboard/Report to another target Dashboard/Report and this type of navigation also passes prompt values from the source to the target. Passing prompt values is the default behavior and I am not aware of any way to turn this off; however, there is a nice trick to avoid this behavior if you do not want the source prompt values to override filters in the target - the trick is, for any prompted column that the source and target have in common and that should not have prompt values passed, simply create a duplicate presentation column with the same name (and logical mapping) and place it under a different presentation folder. For example, if my source Dashboard contains a prompted column called Year, and so does my target report, but I want my target report to always contain a hardcoded filter of Year = 2008, then simply create a duplicate Year column in the presentation layer and place it under a different presentation folder (sometimes I create a folder called "FOR DEVELOPER USE ONLY" and set its permissions to hide it from front end users). Set the source report to use the original Year column and the target report to use the duplicate Year column. Even though the column names are the same in the source and target, OBIEE will recognize these columns as distinct since they are in different folders, and therefore, the source prompt value will not override the target filter (and this is seemless to the end user).

One last tip - be careful with Navigation Targets because 1) I find that their behavior is not always intuitive to the end user, especially when linked from charts and 2) be aware that if you use Value Interaction with Navigation Targets, then the actual value that a user clicks on will be passed to the target as part of the filter criteria. If you simply want to provide a text link from a source to a target without passing prompt values, then you can use basic HTML and a hardcoded URL for the target report/Dashboard. However, if you want to provide a text link (as opposed to a Navigation Target embedded in a table/chart), and you DO want to pass prompt values, then you could actually accomplish this with another trick - you can still use Navigation Targets but just create a dummy report, with one real colum and one dummy column. Hide the real column and design the report so that it only returns one row. Also hide the column headings. Then create a Navigation Target under the Value Interaction for the dummy column. Set the dummy column to a constant, such as a description of the target. The final result which displays on the dashboard just resembles a regular text link but it contains the OBIEE built-in Navigation Target functionality which will link to the target and pass the prompt values, so you get the best of both worlds!


Dan Christian Llaneta said...

Hi there! Bumped into this post when I was searching for a way to avoid prompt values to be carried over when navigating to a dashboard from a table report (Value interaction). The workaround provided was very helpful and worked!

Right now thou, it's navigating from that target report back to other Dashboard pages that's becoming a problem, as the dashboard pages still seem to carry over all the prompt values. Is there a way to clear all existing prompt values when navigating to a dashboard page as navigated from the header? Any ideas would be appreciated!