Hierarchies with CTEs

Common table expressions (CTEs) have many applications. However, one of their capabilities to implement recursive queries is very useful for navigating and manipulating hierarchies.

Here is one brief example of utilizing that. Given a table with employees and their managers represented as adjacency list, provide list of employees that report to particular manager, ordered by the natural hierarchy order of listing each employee under the corresponding manager.

-- Create sample table with employees and managers



 employee_name VARCHAR(35),

 manager_nbr INT NULL REFERENCES Employees(employee_nbr));


INSERT INTO Employees VALUES (1, 'John Doe', NULL);

INSERT INTO Employees VALUES (2, 'James Brown', 1);

INSERT INTO Employees VALUES (3, 'Keith Green', NULL);

INSERT INTO Employees VALUES (4, 'Peter Roth', 2);

INSERT INTO Employees VALUES (5, 'Hans Gruber', 2);

INSERT INTO Employees VALUES (6, 'Kris Evans', 4);

INSERT INTO Employees VALUES (7, 'Jeff Colleman', NULL);


-- Use recursive CTE to build binary and charachter paths

WITH EmployeeHierarchy


(SELECT employee_nbr, employee_name, manager_nbr,

        CAST(employee_nbr AS VARBINARY(MAX)) AS bpath,

        CAST('.' +

            CAST(employee_nbr AS VARCHAR(4)) +

            '.' AS VARCHAR(MAX)) AS cpath

 FROM Employees

 WHERE manager_nbr IS NULL


 SELECT E.employee_nbr, E.employee_name, E.manager_nbr,

        H.bpath + CAST(E.employee_nbr AS BINARY(4)),

        H.cpath + CAST(E.employee_nbr AS VARCHAR(4)) + '.'

 FROM Employees AS E

 JOIN EmployeeHierarchy AS H

   ON E.manager_nbr = H.employee_nbr)

SELECT employee_nbr, employee_name, manager_nbr, bpath, cpath

FROM EmployeeHierarchy

WHERE cpath LIKE '%.2.%' -- filter all employees for manager 2

ORDER BY bpath;          -- order by natural hierarchy path


-- Results

employee_nbr employee_name  manager_nbr bpath                              cpath

------------ -------------- ----------- ---------------------------------- ----------

2            James Brown    1           0x0000000100000002                .1.2.

4            Peter Roth    2           0x000000010000000200000004        .1.2.4.

6            Kris Evans    4           0x00000001000000020000000400000006 .

5            Hans Gruber    2           0x000000010000000200000005        .1.2.5.

The method above creates two manager/employee paths: a binary path that preserves the natural ordering at each level, which can be used to sort; a character path that can be used to filter by manager.

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