Pilot projects are popular in companies for experimenting with industry 4.0 concepts. However, few studies have addressed the specificities of piloting transformation, whose requirements are quite different than those for implementing a project with clear goals. Pilot projects can be used for the purpose of exploring, demonstrating, optimizing and disseminating solutions. In this paper we identify the role of pilot projects in digital transformation and define a successful pilot project so that it transcends to a full project. We provide accessible guidelines for the deployment of pilot projects in industry 4.0, drawing from a structured literature review and from lessons learned in an action research project implementing mixed reality in household ceramics production. A sound approach to pilot projects is important to reduce unknowns and risks in ensuing full projects and to contributing to organizational knowledge, offering an opportunity to rethink business strategies and train employees in digital transformation.