Highly efficient and cost-effective transformation technologies are essential for studying gene function in the major cereal crops, wheat and barley. Demand for efficient transformation systems to allow over-expression, or RNAi-mediated silencing of target genes, is greatly increasing. This is due to technology advances, such as rapid genome sequencing, enhancing the rate of gene discovery and thus leading to a large number of genes requiring functional analysis through transformation pipelines. Barley can be transformed at very high efficiency but the methods are genotype-dependent. Wheat is more difficult to transform, however, recent advances are also allowing the development of high-throughput transformation systems in wheat. For many gene function studies, barley can be used as a model for wheat due to its highly efficient transformation rates and smaller, less complex genome. An ideal transformation system needs to be extremely efficient, simple to perform, inexpensive, genotype-independent, and give the required expression of the transgene. Considerable progress has been made in enhancing transformation efficiencies, controlling transgene expression and in understanding and manipulating transgene insertion. However, a number of challenges still remain, one of the key ones being the development of genotype-independent transformation systems for wheat and barley.