Something about “silos v. embeds” shifted my perspective a bit, even though that’s part of what you originally posted, Mike, and I thought I’d share this.
In my experience, it is possible to do both. I’ve worked for the past eight years in a traditionally silo’d group, but for a few years the members of my team and I were also embedded on product teams. It wasn’t ideal – our tools, process, publishing workflow were still silo’d, so reviews were tricky to manage – but overall it was definitely my best experience at this company. It worked well for writers and the rest of the product team, and helped produce better product and doc. It also tended to produce doc that was more tightly integrated into the (rest of the) product, because writers as informal QA often caught issues – the standard old “if it’s hard to doc, maybe the problem isn’t with the doc” situation.
Sadly, it didn’t last. We went “agile.” <saves_rant_for_later> (Note that I’m not dissing on agile per se, but agile in a corporate environment is often laughably what I’ve learned to call waterscrumfall. Yeah, that thing.) Docs and any consideration of text anywhere in the product were sidelined, not by explicit decision but by (fairly standard) failure to pay attention.
Now, ironically, in this sidelined-writers model, I’m trying to help produce text that is integrated across the entire customer experience (full-stack writing, I’ve seen it called): UI labels, instructional text in the UI, Help snippets in the UI, tooltip Help, and a (mostly context-sensitive) full-on “Help system.” (And eventually docs for APIs that will expose some of this functionality.)
It’s quite a lot harder than it should be, although not just because of the silos. But the silos really get in the way. The real irony is, we’ve been able in the past to transcend the silos. But now they’re back, and getting in the way of what is supposed to be a more integrated approach to the product.
This isn’t quite about “new” v. “old,” but FWIW, the larger sidelined-writers approach seems to feel to my (doc) team like a giant step backward. We all worked better – individually, and as a team – when we were more embedded.
And I guess I’m also trying to complicate the discussion a bit, to suggest that new vs old, silos vs embedded, are useful categories for discussion, but that when we look at real-world scenarios, things often get mixed up, other variables introduced, and individual stories don’t fit so neatly into the containers we want to define for them. (At the same time, though, that’s why we have these discussions, to try to make some sense of the messier reality we deal with on a (near-)daily basis.)