In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were a large number of scientists retiring from the workforce in major corporations. The concern was that as they left their employer they would be taking their knowledge with them and it would be lost to the employer’s current employees. Thus a significant effort was undertaken to capture the knowledge of senior personnel in a way that others in the organization could easily access it.
This started with paper based index and keyword systems. This was made simpler with the advent of computer storage of information. However, the issue at the time was that the files had to be indexed in a way that they could be retrieved. The search engines at the time were unable to do good full text searching. This issue can be seen in the “Pareto of barriers to knowledge work” figure. In this figure the lack of technical documents, lack of internal consultants, not sharing knowledge, lack of external consultants, and unclear procedures are among the hurdles that knowledge workers of the time faced.
Because of this problem companies invested in better indexing of their paper filing systems, putting into computer databases the indexes of paper systems, and to some extent scanning and indexing full text documents. This knowledge management process became a core competency and it was a skill to be able to develop indexing systems for each industry and company within that industry. Fortunately in roughly the same timeframe superior search technology became available.