- Management hierarchy. Top-down means traditional command-and-control. See my post on Multiple Styles of EA.
- Decomposition/Refinement. Top-down means starting from broad vision and principles; bottom-up means starting with concrete detail and evidence.
- Large versus small. Top-down means starting with the big pieces and assuming that the small pieces can be fitted into the gaps left by the big pieces. See Nick Malik's piece Should SOA be Top Down or Bottom Up, which I discussed in my post on Service Planning.
- Planned versus emergent. Top-down means directed and planned, bottom-up means collaborative and emergent. See my post on Emergent Architecture.
- TO-BE versus AS-IS. Top-down means starting from the future requirements of the business; bottom-up means starting from the available assets.
- Generic versus Specific. Top-down means starting from an apriori (generalized, enterprise-wide or industry-wide) schema (Kant); bottom-up means starting from the specific local requirements (Hume). This is a possible interpretation of Ali Arsanjani's posts So is Kant right or Hume? and Back to Kant and Hume. See my post on The General and the Particular.
In a debate on community regeneration, Matthew Mckeague writes "What I don’t think can be forgotten in the ‘bottom up’ ‘top down’ debate is that it shouldn’t be a binary choice. There’s a balance to be struck and professional skills and networks can’t be underestimated. It’s where the balance sits that we need some further debate."
See also The Politics of "Top-Down"