Keyword research is an integral part of any SEO campaign. Think of it as the foundation of a building; without it you are building on uneven and unsupported ground.
Proper keyword research is more than keywords; it incorporates and understanding of your business model, the industry and vertical you operate in.
Like any business analysis, keyword research looks into your competitors. As such, I insist that all SEO campaigns to start with keyword research.
The goal of keyword research is to identify opportunities by understanding what people search for and what type of content you can create to attract their attention.