What is an Enterprise Continuum? In TOGAF 8, it was defined as "a virtual repository", but this wasn't very clear. In TOGAF 9, it is now defined more explicitly as "a view of the Architecture Repository that provides methods for classifying architecture and solution artifacts as they evolve from generic Foundation Architectures to Organization-Specific Architectures". In other words, it is not the repository itself, but a way of classifying the content of the repository.
The relationship between the generic and the specific has always been a critical dimension of architecture, as I've argued on this blog many times (see label: generic v specific). Enterprise Continuum provides a framework for architects to reason about the right level of generality or specificity for a given artefact.
Here are some implications of this framework.
- Progressive Refinement - Many methods assume progression from the generic to the specific, sometimes known as "refinement". But this is not the only possible approach, and is not always the most appropriate. (See my posts on Progressive Design Constraints and Analyzing the Rusty Lawnmower.)
- Management of Variation - Capabilities can often be decomposed into highly generic elements and asset-specific elements. (See my example of Green Coffee Beans.) Decoupling these capabilities helps to drive higher levels of cross-process and cross-organizational sharing. With SOA, this can be supported by separate architectural layers. (See my posts on Homogeneous Business Vocabulary and Merging Capability Modelling with Process Modelling.)
- Adaptation and Adaptability - To achieve agility or flexibility, an enterprise or system or solution may need to be under-determined. This is sometimes confused with abstraction. (See my posts on Adaptation and Adaptability.)
- Strategic Differentiation - Enterprise architects need to understand the ways in which a given company is similar to any other company in the same industy sector, and what particular things differentiate this company from other companies. (See my posts The General and The Particular and Service Planning.)