Project Management (Sep 12-14)

WEI’s Project Management Forum brings together gas and electric utility project, program and portfolio management leadership and practitioners to discuss the latest industry trends and best practices. The diverse mix of presentations, Q&A panels, roundtable discussions and networking allow attendees to share their experiences and develop contacts in the similar roles throughout the utility industry. Expect to gain applicable insights on methodologies, techniques, tools, and change and risk management best practices related to project management. This program is an excellent professional development and organizational team-building opportunity.

General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Andy Leija, IT PMO Manager, Avista Utilities; Suzanne Tamayo, Director, IT Shared Services, Puget Sound Energy

    • Program Location
    • The Historic Davenport, Autograph Collection
    • 10 South Post Street
      Spokane, WA 99201
    • Who Should Attend
      • Project Office / Enterprise Project Office Leadership
      • Project and Program Managers
      • Portfolio Directors and Managers
      • Service Company Project Management Leaders
  • Registration Options
  • Member: $399 USD
    Regular: $799 USD

    Registration prices increase $100 after August 20, 2018. Registration includes all meeting materials, opening reception on Wednesday, breakfast and lunch Thursday and Friday, and networking dinner Thursday night. Guest tickets are available for $100 and allow a personal guest (a spouse or partner who does not work in the energy industry) to accompany a registered attendee at the event. Guest registration includes all meals and receptions, and all program materials.

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations, cancellations received 15 business days prior to the program will receive a full refund. Cancellations received 6 to 14 business days prior to the event will receive a refund, less a $100 administrative fee. No shows and last minute cancellations, 5 business days prior to the event or less, will be responsible for the full registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the same event are always welcome.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public.
  • For more information contact Joshua Baker, Program Manager at (971) 255-4970.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Walking Tour of Avista's Downtown Spokane Network

Arrive early to join us for a walking tour of Avista's downtown Spokane network including: hydropower plant, substation, and network vault. The tour will conclude at the Steam Plant.

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Welcome Reception at the Steam Plant

Join participants for a hosted networking reception in the heart of downtown Spokane on the roof of the Steam Plant. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

7:00 AM - 8:00 AM

Registration and Breakfast

8:00 AM - 8:25 AM

Conference Welcome
Speaker(s): Andy Leija, IT PMO Manager, Avista Utilities, Dennis Vermillion, President, Avista Corp.

Avista Utilities welcomes the group to Spokane and the 2018 Project Management Forum.

8:25 AM - 9:30 AM

Working with Project Sponsors + Executives
Moderator(s): Jacob Reidt, Manager, Project Management & Contracts, Civil Engineering & Dam Safety, Avista Corp.
Panelist(s): Mike Cashell, Vice President, Transmission, NorthWestern Energy, John Kasperick, Director of Financial Planning and Analysis, NorthWestern Energy, Mike Broemeling, Director, Customer & Shared Services, Avista Utilities

Hear directly from a panel of utility executives on their experiences working with project managers and best practices for building strong partnerships and strong projects.

9:30 AM - 9:45 AM


9:45 AM - 10:45 AM

Breakout Sessions #1

  • PMO Leadership Track:
Contractor Approach
Speaker(s): Jacob Reidt, Manager Project Delivery, Generation Production, Avista Corporation, Fred Atkinson, Business Technology Manager, Puget Sound Energy
Utilities will share their overall staffing approach related to contractor or vendor utilization. The panel will address what roles they are using contractors for in their PMO and the reasoning behind the decision. In addition to sharing their models being used for staffing, onboarding, and managing contractors, panelist will discuss what is working well and isn’t, the risks and benefits related to relying on contractors, and the tools, templates or processes have been implemented at the utility that others could benefit from knowing about.
  • Practitioners – IT Focus Track:
Agile Best Practices
Speakers: Kathie Hopkins, Manager, IT Operations Project Management, Puget Sound Energy; Keith Newbern, Manager, IT Strategic Project Management, Puget Sound Energy
With its focus on continuous improvement, scope flexibility, team input, and delivering quality products, the agile project management methodology has grown in popularity across IT departments at utilities. Puget Sound Energy has created an Agile Center of Excellence to successfully implement best practices across their IT PMO. They will share tips and lessons learned related to governance, the messaging to leaders on the new methodology, scrum teams, sizing in delivery points, communicating delivery expectations, the scalability of agile, velocity use vs backlog, agile tools, and other topics.
  • Practitioners – Construction Focus Track:
Speaker(s): Krystal De Bruine, Transmission Project Manager, Great River Energy; Anthony Barracca, Manager, Project Controls, Puget Sound Energy
Great River Energy and Puget Sound Energy will present on the features they use in Primavera to support construction projects through each phase of a project and how the tool is integrated with other applications.

10:45 AM - 11:00 AM


11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Breakout Sessions #2

  • PMO Leadership Track:
Portfolio Management Approaches + Methods
Speakers: Kalyana Kakani, Business Technology Solutions Manager, Puget Sound Energy; Randy Weishelt, PMO Manager, Grant County PUD
Through case studies, utilities will share the different approaches and tools used to manage a portfolio of projects. Speakers will touch on what governance models and methods they are you using, how they are developing their pipeline and getting buy-in and sign-off. Utilities will also address the roles that executives play in the process and demonstrate the tools, templates or processes they have implemented to manage their portfolio.
  • Practitioners – IT Focus Track:
Pitfalls to Avoid in IT Project Management
Speaker: Graham Smith, Application Delivery Manager, Avista Corporation
Whether your new to managing IT projects or have years of experience, there are always new tips and secrets to learn about managing these projects. Utilities will share recent lessons learned and pitfalls to avoid. They will also discuss how to use project post mortems and root cause analyses to improve future projects.
  • Practitioners – Construction Focus Track:
Construction Project Management 101
What does it mean to be a construction project manager in the utility industry? How does being a project manager at a utility differ from being one at a construction company? We will share different approaches as we compare and contrast to identify areas to improve and tips that project managers can bring back to their company.

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Catered Lunch

1:00 PM - 2:15 PM

Breakout Sessions #3

  • PMO Leadership Track:
Demonstrating PMO Value
Speakers: Fred Atkinson, Business Technology Manager, Puget Sound Energy; Gina Sanchez, Sr Project Control Specialist, Puget Sound Energy
Whether your company is just starting to create a PMO or you have had one for many years, there is much conversation around how best to demonstrate PMOs value to the larger organization. Puget Sound Energy will show how they are doing this successfully and where challenges remain. Presentations will focus on what types of data being used to show the value PMOs are bringing to the utility, examples of how structure and oversight are helping, and how leaders are responding to PMOs.  
  • Practitioners – IT Focus Track:
Reporting Financials Using Various Tools
Join for a conversation on the reporting financials and the integrated tools that IT project managers are using.  We’ll discuss what metrics or KPIs are we using to communicate status, what tools or template are being utilized, and other topics that of interest to the session attendees.
  • Practitioners – Construction Focus Track:
Resource Planning in a Weak Matrix Organization
Speakers: Tom Pankratz, Director, Electric Transmission Engineering and Project Management, NorthWestern Energy
Join us for a panel conversation on how different utilities approach resource planning. We will discuss what strategies and process have been successfully employed to attain resources in a weak matrix structure. We will also address how resource planning is different for seasonally based construction projects. 

2:15 PM - 2:30 PM


2:30 PM - 3:45 PM

Breakout Sessions #4

  • PMO Leadership Track:
Program Management
Facilitator: Jacob Reidt, Manager Project Delivery, Generation Production, Avista Corporation
Speakers: Russ Seiler, Manager, Power Delivery Projects, Grant County PUD; Sheila Wald, Project Specialist, Grant County PUD, Shanté Wilson, PMO Director, NW Natural; Ricky Hernandez, Supervisor Project Management, Arizona Public Service Company
Organizations will share examples of large programs underway and discuss utility approaches, successes, and challenges in formalizing program management practices.
  • Practitioners – IT Focus Track:
IT PM Tools
Speaker: Stacia Rast, IT Portfolio and PMO Manager, Idaho Power Company
The session will open with Stacia Rast of Idaho Power sharing their experience using Microsoft’s Power BI tool increase insight across their IT organization and utility. Stacia will demonstrate how the tool connects various data sources and tools, including databases, SharePoint, Project Server, Spreadsheets, and touch-base on tips on how IT  project managers can best use the tool. We will conclude the session with an open discussion of other tools that project managers are implementing or investigating.  
  • Practitioners – Construction Focus Track:
Risk Management + Contingency Planning
Speaker(s): Yusup Hojanepesov, Portfolio Analyst, EPCOR Distribution & Transmission; Ben Deschuytter, Supervisory Electrical Engineer – Transmission Project Management Office,  Bonneville Power Administration; JoNell DeMars, Senior Project Manager, NW Natural 
We will hear from two about their utility's perspective on risk management. First, Yusup Hojanepesov of EPCOR Distribution & Transmission will break down risk management between the risk of asset failure, the risk at project selection, and risk to project execution. Focusing on risk to execution he will share real like examples from EPCOR about how they have tied historical issues back to risk to calculate maximum impact. Then he will share their contingency planning for the risks that have been identified. Afterward, Ben Deschuytter will share Bonneville Power Administration's risk management standard and JoNell DeMars will update attendees on NW Natural's approach to the topic.

3:45 PM - 4:00 PM


4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Facilitated Hot Topic Roundtables

We end the day with open roundtable discussions in each track. This is an opportunity for attendees to ask questions directly to their peers for feedback on topics not listed on the agenda.

  • PMO Leadership Track:
Facilitator: Janette Cruz, Sr. Enterprise Performance Planning Coordinator, Sacramento Municipal Utility District
  • Practitioners – IT Focus Track:
Facilitator: Leianne Raymond, IS Program Manager, Avista Utilities
  • Practitioners – Construction Focus Track:
Facilitator: Terri Echegoyen, Project Manager, Avista Utilities

    5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

    WEI Hosted Networking Reception + Dinner

    Join us in The Historic Davenport's Hall of The Doges at 5:00 PM for drinks and at 5:30 PM for dinner.

    Sponsored by: Burns & McDonnell

    Friday, September 14, 2018

    7:30 AM - 8:00 AM


    8:00 AM - 9:15 AM

    BC Hydro’s PMO Maturity Story
    Facilitator(s): Naomi Shankel, Director, Operations Integration, Idaho Power Company
    Speaker(s): Dionne Smith, Manager, Project Controls and Standards, BC Hydro

    BC Hydro received the PMO of the Year Award from the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2016. At the time, the PMO had come in under budget overall in the closing of 563 capital projects worth CA$6.5 billion over the previous five years. Additional their PMO was managing 600 projects at a time and was steering a portfolio representing CAD$20 billion in capital investments over the next ten years. Dionne Smith, a leader in the utility’s PMO, will share their experience in maturing their PMO, lessons learned, and ongoing challenges.

    9:15 PM - 9:45 AM

    Break with Hotel Check Out

    9:45 AM - 10:45 AM

    Breakout Sessions #5

    • PMO Leadership Track:
    Soft Skills for PMO Roles
    Facilitator: Suzanne Tamayo, Director, IT Shared Services, Puget Sound Energy
    Panelists: Janette Cruz, Sr. Enterprise Performance Planning Coordinator, Sacramento Municipal Utility District; Jacob Reidt, Manager Project Delivery, Generation Production, Avista Corporation; Keith Newbern, Manager, IT Strategic Project Management, Puget Sound Energy; Fred Ledward, Manager, Project Management Office, Dominion Energy
    What soft skills are needed to support the future needs of PMOs and how are utilities developing or hiring these skills?
    • Practitioners – IT  and Construction Combined Session: 
    In this session, we will discuss different approaches to estimation, what kind of level of effort at front-end is occurring, and how to better estimate contracts, amongst other topics.
    Speakers: Cindy Oliveto, Business Technology Solution Manager, Puget Sound Energy​

        10:45 AM - 11:00 AM


        11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

        Breakout Sessions #6

        • PMO Leadership Track:
        EPMO Developments + Trends
        Speakers: Naomi Shankel, Director, Operations Integration, Idaho Power Company; Scott Dudley, Director, KPMG LLP; KPMG LLP; Sean Ridgeway, Sr. Manager, EPMO, Pacific Gas & Electric Company
        This session will address the status of EPMO’s within the utility industry and the value drivers that exist of for this model. KMPG will provide details on their work with Pacific Gas & Electric in setting up and maturing an EPMO within their utility. We will also open up the conversation to attendees to share where they are in creating an EPMO and explore why some utilities are pushing forward to develop their EPMO while others are backing away.
        • Practitioners – IT  and Construction Combined Session
        Role of Project Controls + Proof of Prudency
        Speakers: Brenda Raiha, Project Controls Manager, Northwestern Energy; Scott Roberts, Project Management Quality Improvement Program Manager, Seattle City Light; Andy Leija, IT PMO Manager, Avista Utilities
        Northwestern Energy, Seattle City Light, and Avista Utilities will provide an overview of the role of project controls at their utilities. They will address why project documentation important, the facets of project reporting, phase-gating requirements as a means of governance, and the successes and challenges of adhering to policies and procedures. 

        12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

        Wrap Up Meeting and Planning for Next Year

        Open to all attendees, especially those interested in helping to plan next year's Forum.

        1:00 PM - 1:00 PM


        Hotel + Travel

        • Reservation Instructions
        • The WEI room block at the Historic Davenport is currently full. WEI has secured an overflow block at the nearby Davenport Tower. Please contact the hotel directly at (800) 228-9290 to reserve your room. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute to receive a special rate of $149 USD/night, plus a $10 destination fee. This rate is guaranteed until August 27, 2018 or until the WEI room block is full.

        Meet The Speakers

        Andy Leija

        Avista Utilities

        IT PMO Manager

        Dennis Vermillion

        Avista Corp.

        Learn More

        Mr. Vermillion has been president of Avista since January 2018 and CEO since October 1, 2019. Prior to that, he served as senior vice president of Avista and president of Avista Utilities from 2009 to 2018. He also serves as chairman of the board for Avista subsidiary Alaska Electric Light and Power Company. Mr. Vermillion joined Avista in 1985 and has held various staff and management positions. His experience covers a broad range of activities, including leadership, energy trading and marketing, risk management, scheduling, resource operations, power/transmission contracting, resource planning and coordination, regulatory issues and production cost modeling. Mr. Vermillion has served as Vice President of Energy Resources for Avista Utilities and prior to that, as President and COO for Avista Energy from February 2001 until its sale in June 2007. He currently serves as a board member for the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Avista Foundation. Mr. Vermillion formerly served on the Boards of Western Energy Institute (WEI) and Spokane County United Way and is a past chairman of the Spokane County campaign. He is a graduate of Washington State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

        Michael Cashell

        NorthWestern Energy

        Vice President, Transmission
        Learn More

        Mike is responsible for all of NorthWestern Energy’s electric transmission, substations and natural gas transmission and storage operations. Mike has held his current position since May 2011 and has over 32 years utility industry experience in the areas of transmission system, substations and balancing authority operations, planning and maintenance, hydroelectric and thermal power system operation, independent power production, gas transmission and storage system operation and business management.

        Mike received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering Science in 1986 from Montana Tech of the University of Montana and attended the Public Utilities Executive Course at the University of Idaho in 1997. Mike is active in state and regional transmission and energy forums and represents NorthWestern Energy at the Western Electricity Coordinating Council.

        Mike is a native of Butte, Montana, where he lives with his wife Kathy. Their daughter Courtney is a teacher in Anaconda, Montana.

        Dionne Smith

        BC Hydro

        Manager, Project Controls and Standards

        Scott Roberts

        Seattle City Light

        Project Management Improvement Program

        Brenda Raiha

        NorthWestern Energy

        Project Controls Manager

        Yusup Hojanepesov

        EPCOR Distribution and Transmission Inc.

        Manager, PMO

        Krystal De Bruine

        Great River Energy

        Leader, Project Management Office

        Anthony Barracca

        Puget Sound Energy


        Suzanne Tamayo

        Puget Sound Energy

        Director, IT Shared Services
        Learn More

        Suzanne Tamayo is currently Director of IT Shared Services at Puget Sound Energy (PSE), located in Bellevue, WA. She has many years of practical project and program management experience, and currently has overall responsibility for technology project delivery at PSE.

        Thomas Pankratz

        NorthWestern Energy

        Director, Electric Transmission Engineering and Project Management
        Learn More

        Mr. Pankratz is responsible for Electric Transmission Engineering, Construction, Project Management and leadership of major projects for NorthWestern Energy’s T&D business unit. This includes the Electric Transmission Engineering & Construction team and a team of Project Managers responsible for major project management.

        Tom joined NWE in 1998 and then went on to hold positions of increasing levels of responsibility up to his current role. He attended the Public Utilities Executive course at the University of Idaho in 2017. Prior to joining NWE, Tom worked as an engineering consultant for 5 years.

        Mr. Pankratz has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Montana State University and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Montana and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). In his spare time, Tom enjoys hunting, spending time at the lake with his family and backcountry snowmobiling in Montana.

        John Kasperick

        NorthWestern Energy

        Director of Financial Planning and Analysis
        Learn More

        John Kasperick is the Director of Financial Planning and Analysis at NorthWestern Energy. John has been employed at NorthWestern Energy for 25 years, and his responsibilities include annual budget development, monthly forecasting, monthly internal and Board reporting, long-range planning, capital budgeting and reporting, load research, and energy supply mid-office risk management.

        John received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance, and a Master of Science Degree in Applied Economics from Montana State University. John is also an adjunct professor of Finance and Economics at Montana Tech of the University of Montana, where he teaches at night. He attended the Public Utilities Executive course at the University of Idaho in 2010.

        John lives in Butte and is married with 3 children. He serves on the Community Counseling and Correctional Services (CCCS) Board of Directors, along with the Butte Country Club Board, and the Montana Tech Industrial Advisory Board.

        Kevin Christie

        Avista Corp.

        Vice President, External Affairs and Chief Customer Officer
        Learn More

        Kevin Christie is vice president, external affairs and chief customer officer for Avista. In that role, he has responsibility for communications, community outreach and philanthropy, as well as customer energy efficiency and conservation activities, and new products and services.

        Christie joined Avista in 2005 as the manager of Natural Gas Planning. In 2007, he was named the director of Gas Supply. He was appointed the senior director of Finance in 2012 and named senior director of Customer Solutions in 2014. Christie has extensive experience in finance and the energy industry. Prior to joining Avista, he worked for Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN), where he served as the director of Pipeline Marketing and Development, and as the director of Pricing and Business Analysis.

        In addition, Christie has held positions in finance, business analysis, regulatory affairs and revenue accounting for PG&E Corporation, Pacific Gas Transmission Company and Chevron USA.

        Christie has a Bachelor of Arts degree with an accounting emphasis from Washington State University. In addition, he completed the Utility Executive Course at the University of Idaho and the Finance for Senior Executives program at Harvard Business School.

        Christie serves on the board of directors for the Northwest Gas Association, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Providence Health Care Foundation of Eastern Washington and the Avista Foundation.

        JoNell DeMars

        NW Natural

        Senior Project Manager

        Kathie Hopkins

        Puget Sound Energy

        Manager, IT Operations Project Management

        Fred Ledward

        Dominion Energy

        Manager, Project Management Office

        Keith Newbern

        Puget Sound Energy

        Manager, IT Strategic Project Management
        Learn More

        Keith Newbern, PMP, CSM, is the Manager, Strategic Project Management for Puget Sound Energy’s Information Technology Shared Services. He has over 30 years’ experience in project and portfolio management, software design, development, and delivery, and consulting services in industries including energy, petro-chemical, manufacturing, telecom, retail and healthcare.

        Naomi Shankel

        Idaho Power Company

        Director, Operations Integration

        Sheila Wald

        Grant County PUD

        Project Specialist

        Cindy Oliveto

        Puget Sound Energy

        Business Technology Solution Manager
        Learn More

        Cindy Oliveto has more than fifteen years’ experience leading Business transformations. At Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Cindy leads PSE’s IT business engagement for New Products and Growth, Energy Efficiency, Customer Care, Communications, Corporate Shared Services such as HR, Benefits, Corporate Security, Fleet, Operational Training, and PSE’s Legal/Environmental/Risk/Compliance team.

        In her Business Technology Solution Management function she works closely with business partners to create business and technology strategic plans, develop technology roadmaps and long term financial plans. She aims to optimize and accelerate her business’ performance through the solutions IT delivers.

        Cindy has more than 15 years of consulting experience in leadership positions, and for 14 years, held several leadership roles at Microsoft. Her experience spans multiple business product development functions, IT and product engineering. She is a and trusted advisor to clients and a business leader, with a track record of producing bottom line results for businesses, and growth for the firms she represents.

        Her client experience has afforded Cindy the ability to work across industries and functions, to synthesize information for leadership in large organizations, and to work shoulder to shoulder with clients on business challenges that need careful examination and critical decision-making. It is this proficiency that assists Cindy’s passion for bridging business and technology and determination for continual innovation and improvement for the businesses she serves.

        Mike Broemeling

        Avista Utilities

        Director, Customer & Shared Services
        Learn More

        Mike Broemeling leads the Avista Customer Service areas including Field Collections & Meter Reading, Billing, Credit, Revenue Collections, Customer Contact Centers, Key Business Accounts, Enterprise Business Process Improvement & Customer Experience along with the technology supporting Avista’s customers.

        Mike joined Avista in 1983 and has held a variety of leadership roles during his career. He is a graduate of Whitworth University and resides in Spokane, Washington.

        He has been active in the community serving on non-profit boards along with being very active in the Boy Scouts of America.