SMALLER firms want to use technology to improve productivity and efficiency but the problem for many of them is knowing where to turn to.

The big guns in software services, like IBM or NCS, are well out of the price range for these firms yet cheaper alternatives do not easily spring to mind.

It was a conundrum that inspired former IT worker Sean Chew, after he quizzed family and friends about where to go for help on computer issues.

'I asked them one question: If you were to automate one part of your business, which IT company would you work with?' said Mr Chew, 36.

'They said if it's IBM, it would be expensive. If it's local firm NCS, they weren't sure if it would be interested in small and medium-sized enterprises. And how would they get in touch with NCS?

'They also couldn't tell me which were the other local IT companies they knew which built customised IT solutions,' he said.

Convinced there was a business opportunity, Mr Chew resigned from IBM Global Services, where he had been in project management for 12 years, to start Capps Solution.

It was slow going at first. He reached out to former schoolmates, friends, contacts and companies he had worked with to secure projects.

Capps, which has finished about 10 projects, employs eight developers who build mainly mobile solutions to automate business operations for SMEs in different industries such as marine, infrastructure and construction.

His aim is to build reliable and high-quality IT solutions to improve productivity and efficiency while enabling smaller firms to provide better customer service and support.

'Every SME is looking at building the next killer software solution,' noted Mr Chew, an electrical engineering graduate from the National University of Singapore.

'But in reality, they should consider the everyday operations that can be automated so that they become as professional and efficient as their bigger competitors.'

Most projects automate business operations using mobile and Internet technologies.

For example, for building survey firm Vision Building Forensics, Capps developed a system for field technicians using tablet computers to record data and photos and to allow administrative staff to generate monthly reports with a single click.

Mr Chew said the firm has managed to complete so many projects in such a short time because of his staff and the software framework he set up.

He said: 'People are important because they can help speed up development. I look for people who are technically capable but I'll hire someone with the extra spark, who works with passion and is proud of his work when he sees it being used by others.'

His developers are writing reusable codes for the software framework. For example, it has a code that specifies that each time a photo is emailed to the office, a copy is automatically saved to the computer.

When a developer wants this particular instruction, he can pull out the code and add it to the new program he is building and tweak it as needed. This saves time, said Mr Chew.

He is now building on the company's expertise in mobile and Internet technologies by developing a software program that can be sold.

Now that Capps is already profitable and with a healthy new product pipeline, he expects revenue to head upwards to seven figures in the next two years.