There is no doubt that to retain the most image data possible you have to shoot in RAW mode, some purist might argue otherwise.
A RAW file has so much image data that there is few limits what you can do to the image before you start loosing data, but also it is really easy to go down the wrong path with todays raw processing programs.
CameraRAW, Lightroom, DxO Optics pro and Capture One are all programs to process RAW files, there are some more subtle differences and some major, but they all are really poweful program that can make or break your images.
Take the image above, on the left you have the pure RAW file and on the right you have the same image with just +20 contrast, -10 highlights, -5 blacks and +15 vibrance.
Very subtle changes but those make the image look a lot more as I remember seeing it when standing there compared to a very flat RAW file.
The rule of 20
I say "rule" but really it is more a guideline, all I am looking for out of a raw processing program is to give the details and colors a good start, basicly I could underline Light in Lightroom cause that is really how you should treat your images.
Start lightly and slowly build up the values, that way when you start to finalize your images in Photoshop you have not backed yourself into a corner and possibly have to start over or worse not perhaps notice that your image is way too noisy, have too strong halos around edges, too saturated colors or other artifacts due to overcooking the image.
If you only use a RAW processor like Lightroom for all your image editing of course you have to move further, but if you move through every step of the way carefully and check your image often at 100% you will move towards a workflow your images will thank you for. :)
This may look somewhat ok in such a small size displayed on the web but once you print this image large and hang it on the wall all such adjustments are going to be accentuated 10fold.
Always pay close attention to the details, color and contrast in your images, global adjustments that affect the entire image like Saturation, Clarity, Sharpness and contrast are some of the quickest ways to destroy an image if not done with care.
I used to do a lot more of my processing in Lightroom/Capture One but now around 95% of all my image processing happens in Photoshop and the difference in quality in my images are noticable better than before, and if you also edit non-destructively you are never going to get to a point of no return.