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The Organization

Room & Board is an independent, privately held retailer of modern furniture and home decor. More than 90% of their products are made in the U.S. using top-quality domestic materials and imported materials. Founded and based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, they have more than 20 stores across the United States and deliver their furniture nationally. A steadfast focus on quality, value, and service since 1980 has built their reputation as one of the most respected furniture retailers in the country.

The Challenge

They say trust is the cornerstone to any lasting relationship. Whether it’s in friendships or in business — trust is key.

Room & Board is a national home furnishings retailer that helps customers create exceptional living spaces. The entire process is centered around relationships — relationships with customers, vendor partners, and employees. “We work with customers to build a long-term relationship. We’re not here to sell you a piece and get you out the door as fast as possible. We really want to build a long-term, lasting relationship,” says Mark Rodrigue, senior network engineer at Room & Board.

Trust is built every time a customer has a successful meeting with a Design Associate, when two staff members collaborate, or when a past satisfied customer returns. Sometimes these interactions occur in person, but more and more, people are meeting remotely. This creates opportunities to establish a new dimension of trust between a company and its customers. Is a customer’s information safe? Is Room & Board’s data and digital infrastructure safe? Are non-company “Bring Your Own” devices (BYOD) safe? How does Room & Board secure the environment, protect against threats and maintain a level of trust without eroding organic interactions? Rodrigue describes the challenges of a hybrid workplace, “We’re a multi-platform environment. We’ve got Windows PCs. We’ve got iPads. We’ve got some Androids living out there. Staff even needed access via their own personal devices. So, we have a very mixed environment. How do you square that circle?”

A big part of building trust is the user experience. Room & Board needed its workforce to be highly productive, so the company was looking for a solution that didn’t introduce friction when users accessed work applications. Rodrigue has learned during his 14+ years in the security space that if a solution isn’t easy to use, it opens Pandora’s box. “In my experience, if we make the solution too challenging, our users are just going to work around us. If we’re standing in the way of their ability to do their best work, then, A) we failed, and B) they’re going to do something that could hurt us or them,” warns Rodrigue.

Striking the right balance between user experience and security is a challenge for many organizations. Rodrigue understands both sides very well. “How do you build your security policy and deliver it in a way that allows your users to continue to do their job but not necessarily know that they’re adhering to your security policy, because it just works?” Rodrigue’s answer was to provide a predictable user experience while protecting against threats targeting multi-factor authentication (MFA) such as MFA fatigue attacks. “One of the things that we’ve been finding is, if we’re able to tell our users, when you log into this, this is what your experience will be, but you won’t have that experience unless you log out or change a password or something. When you log in, you’ll enter your credentials and be presented with an MFA challenge. You’ll meet that challenge, and you won’t see that again.”

The Solution

For Room & Board, the solution came from a trusted partner – Cisco. The company was already leveraging a wide range of Cisco Security solutions, so adding multi-factor authentication from Cisco Duo was an easy decision. Duo delivers the strong MFA that Room & Board needs without being cumbersome to the user. Providing an exceptional user experience without compromising on security was something Room & Board really wanted in an MFA solution.

Duo is easy to use and enables secure access from both company issued and personal BYOD. Room & Board knew that when it came to rollout, troubleshooting, and support any time, any place, it could count on Duo for support. “Our rollout was surprisingly quick,” exclaims Rodrigue. “Historically at Room & Board, application rollouts have been a lengthy process with lots of training. The Duo rollout took maybe four weeks from start to finish. All the training and onboarding material was right there. We just downloaded it, added our banner, and sent it to our users,” he says. “We had roughly one thousand employees onboarded, registered, and using the product in less than 30 days. It was one of our fastest rollouts,” he adds.

By making Duo a key component of its security architecture, Room & Board has been able to tackle threats head on. One of those is MFA fatigue. To combat this attack, the company deployed Duo Risk-Based Authentication which evaluates risk signals. If the evaluation indicates low trust, the user is asked to step up to a more secure authentication method. In the case of Room & Board, it was Verified Duo Push. “One of the reasons we continue to invest and further our implementation with Duo is because it isn’t just an MFA tool. The risk-based challenges are something we enabled very early on to get ahead of the MFA fatigue attacks that we were seeing.”

The results speak for themselves. A key barometer for Room & Board was Help Desk tickets. “We did not see an uptick in trouble tickets, and when we did get trouble tickets, they were typically unique one-offs,” Rodrigue explains. Besides adding the level of security that Rodrigue’s team wanted, the average user adopted the solution with ease, and his team could continue to provide exceptional service to its customers. “They were happy that they were able to work in a hybrid environment. We weren’t asking them to jump through a lot of hoops, and they could work on their devices,” says Rodrigue.

Looking Ahead

Room & Board will continue its mission to build lasting relationships and trust. Part of that journey involves looking to the future and working with Duo to help the organization adapt to the speed and demands of doing business in a digital world that is changing rapidly. “We need to speed up the way that we provide access to information. But we also need to be able to audit that and to secure it,” says Rodrigue. “I think being able to deliver solutions in a cloud first manner and securing access to those applications in a cloud native and a cloud-to-cloud manner is really what’s going to drive success,” he concludes.

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