While technology is making a difference in the world, it’s not often that our digital capabilities get to be a part of social change that deeply impacts everyday lives. While we work with some of the largest healthcare and lifesciences firms in the world, it has been our endeavor to create social impact while we help businesses digitally transform. When Marlabs got a chance to work with a start-up that was looking to do just that, we put on more than just our thinking hats to contribute to the cause.
The ask by the Client was to build an online social media platform and mobile app, to help hundreds of millions of people impacted by drug and alcohol addiction. The project was very personal for some leaders in the organizations too, because of their proximity to those in recovery and rehabilitation. The core mission of the project was supported by Microsoft, who had committed to supporting in numerous ways — including technology, product sales, marketing, sponsorship and PR initiatives. Microsoft also helped by leveraging existing relationships to create opportunities for the Client. After a period of consideration among quite a few technology providers, the Client, with guidance from Microsoft, awarded the project to Marlabs, which commenced only a week after the proposal presentation.
The initial rush to start things off from Marlabs and the Client saw the project start with a three-member team, and a couple of consultants from the Client’s side. While the scope and aim of the project was huge – helping the millions of people suffering from addiction in the USA – the Client, being a start-up, was operating on a limited budget. The idea of the project was to build a place for people to find support to come out of their addiction.
To start things off and understand the needs of the Client, Marlabs initially suggested a few workshops with the CTO and other stakeholders. The workshop took on an advisory turn where Marlabs detailed out things like product selection for the content management and other tech stacks. Being a start-up, the technology choices had to be cost conscious.
Even with these constraints, the Client had aspirations of helping as many people as they could. To accomplish this, they wanted the architecture of the platform to be scalable – and highly available. So, Marlabs had to work on a solution which was cost effective, and at the same time – one that could be scaled, and is resilient.
Arriving at a solution
The goal of the project was to build a social networking platform for millions of Americans suffering from addiction. For 192 million Americans who are impacted by drug and alcohol addiction, the social networking platform was envisioned as a one-stop help and guidance destination for people trying to defeat addiction. The platform represents the journey from addiction to sobriety with seven key pillars: Help and Information, Group Support, Treatment and Recovery, Community, Relaunch, Sober Lifestyle, and Inspiration. To demonstrate that sobriety is possible, sustainable, and rewarding, the platform also includes inspiration from celebrities, music, videos, blogs, and articles.
The scalability and availability of the platform were to be top-notch, setting up the foundation for an eCommerce portal at a later stage.
The solution architecture presented by Marlabs was based on Marlabs Cloud Framework (MCF) for App Innovation that leverages cloud-native technologies and empowers organizations to build and run scalable applications in the cloud. The solution used an Azure hosted multi-region deployment model that enables high scalability, availability, resiliency, embraces rapid change and faster time-to-market. With containerized microservices, server-less functions, polyglot persistence over Azure SQL DB, Azure cosmos DB, Gremlin DB and Mongo DB, the architecture provides high performance, scalability, resiliency, and availability. Moreover, it features an AI-based content moderation service that makes use of Azure Content Moderator. A strong DevOps culture was also essential to build automation across the software delivery process and to promote business agility.
The proposed solution received accolades from the Microsoft team that was consulting with the Client, consisting of Microsoft One Commercial Partner Chief Architect, among others. The approval and the subsequent success of the solution is a testament to the Marlabs Innovation Framework, that speeds up processes by a considerable margin.
“A very clever one.” – Microsoft on the architecture
Going ahead, at speed
The online platform and app developed by Marlabs are supported by seven pillars, as identified by the Client – Help and Information, Group Support, Treatment and Recovery, Community, Relaunch, Sober Lifestyle, and Inspiration. Under these pillars, the organization provides crucial addiction help and information and 24/7 support groups in addiction to quick and easy treatment options and access, reviews, sober networks, communities, and more. The aim is to help people launch successfully back into society with relevant sober lifestyle information, inspiring stories of recovery, and more.
The solution Developed by Marlabs has a community page where a user can see the different posts, comments, and reactions under them. There are other pages such as partner pages and self-service pages where users can register and promote their products and services, like events, tweet handles etc.
The other element of the solution is groups, which is purely oriented towards helping people come out of their addiction. These supporting groups are accessible once users join them based on their needs.
The portal also features a ‘Find treatment’ option that lists the names of facilities that can help, in the vicinity of the user. An enhanced feature of searching by zip code also gives all the details about the treatment centers.
Going completely cloud native for this project meant leveraging Azure cloud as the backbone for building the social media platform. With a desire to create a unique solution, the team members incorporated design thinking methods, out of the box approaches, Client workshops and more.
All of this came to life when team Marlabs crossed the first goal line, in January 2022. The website has subsequently been rolled out to the Client team, investors, their friends and families. A planned big marketing push is now impending with the media, press, and celebrities sympathetic to the cause review the platform and mobile apps.
“We just want to say again THANKS for all of your hard work and commitment to take All Sober from a vision to reality.” – Global VP, Marketing
Evidence suggests that early intervention, treatment, and periodic management is necessary to help individuals come out of their addiction. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, only about 1 in 10 people with a substance use disorder receive any type of specialty treatment calling for greater interventions to help the vast number of people dealing with addictions.
By providing crucial insight into addiction and enabling treatment help, the Client organization intends to show that sobriety is sustainable and fun. The platform uses inspiration through music, videos and blogs from celebrity partners that include Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Spreading hope and positivity by highlighting success stories, while gathering help for those in need through in-app communities has enabled the Client organization to bring an observable and welcome change.
With previous experience of having an established technology partner taking the lead, Marlabs managed to exceed the Client’s expectations. The Client team, though small, is all ready to take control of this potentially global platform after the marketing launch. Their confidence in the solution shows the unwavering focus of Marlabs’ ability to keep things simple, and the versatility of Microsoft products on which the platform is built.