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.

Register Now

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 2018 Project Management Forum.

8:25 AM - 9:30 AM

Working with Project Sponsors + Executives
Moderator(s): Suzanne Tamayo, Director, IT Shared Services, Puget Sound Energy
Panelist(s): Jim Kensok, Vice President, Chief Information and Security Officer, Avista Utilities, Mike Cashell, Vice President, Transmission, NorthWestern Energy

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, Suzanne Tamayo, Director, IT Shared Services, 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
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
Through case studies, utilities will share the different approaches to managing 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
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? Our speakers from a utility and construction company will share their different approaches as we compare and contrast to identify areas if 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
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. Through case studies, utilities 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
  • 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
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
We will hear from two speakers 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.

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

    5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

    WEI Hosted Networking Dinner

    Friday, September 14, 2018

    7:30 AM - 8:00 AM


    8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

    BC Hydro’s PMO Maturity Story
    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.

    9:30 AM - 9:45 AM


    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
    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: 

      10:45 AM - 11:00 AM


      11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

      Breakout Sessions #6

      • PMO Leadership Track:
      EPMO Developments + Trends
      Panelists: Naomi Shankel, Director, Operations Integration, Idaho Power Company; Scott Dudley, Director, KPMG LLP; Gayle Hoffman, Senior Associate, Major Projects Advisory, KPMG LLP
      A panel will address the status of EPMO’s within the utility industry and the value drivers that exist of for this model. We will 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.


      Jim Kensok

      Avista Utilities

      Vice President, Chief Information and Security Officer

      Mike Cashell

      NorthWestern Energy

      Vice President, Transmission

      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.

      Portfolio Analyst

      Krystal De Bruine

      Great River Energy

      Leader, Project Management Office

      Anthony Barracca

      Puget Sound Energy


      Suzanne Tamayo

      Puget Sound Energy

      Director, IT Shared Services

      Tom Pankratz

      NorthWestern Energy

      Director, Electric Transmission Engineering and Project Management